The Willy Wonka experience - AI-generated false advertising

March 5, 2024
Assortment of candy

Partner Stuart Smith discusses the pitfalls of artificial intelligence in advertising, following the viral uproar over the misleading marketing of the 'Willy Wonka experience' in Glasgow.

"In the UK, the key principle is that advertising must not materially mislead consumers, and the Willy Wonka Experience debacle only emphasises the importance of that principle. Tempting as it may be to use generative AI to quickly, and cheaply, generate marketing materials, the risk of misleading consumers is high, given that the resulting materials are the relevant AI model’s interpretation of prompts describing the product or experience, rather than images of the actual product or experience itself.

"It seems doubtful that labelling ads as AI-generated, or not representative, will be much help either. In the UK, in relation to ads for mobile games containing footage of gameplay that materially differs from the typical consumer experience, the Advertising Standards Authority has stated that labels such as “not representative of actual gameplay” are unlikely to present an ad from misleading consumers, and I would expect a similar approach to apply to any AI-generated marketing that doesn’t actually look like the final product or experience being sold.

"To safely harness generative AI in marketing materials, it will be crucial to ensure that the outputs produced by the relevant AI tools accurately represent the product or experience in question, or that those outputs are just used as a starting point, instead of as aspirational, but fundamentally misleading, finished articles."

Stuart's comments were published in Fast Company, 1 March 2024.

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