- In May and June, 141 brands, including major banks and blue chip advertisers, supported unreliable artificial intelligence-generated news and information (UAINs) websites through the funneling of programmatic advertising dollars to these sites, according to a study by NewsGuard.
- Most of the advertisements were placed by Google, per the report, and the number of UAINs tracked by NewsGuard grew from 49 to 217 in a month.
- Because the ads were generated programmatically, they were placed automatically regardless of the nature of the platform, meaning advertisers may be unaware their content is appearing on such websites, according to NewsGuard.
While many marketers have jumped at the opportunity to experiment with AI, the quickly developing technology has also posed several challenges for the industry, including brand safety. The report by NewsGuard reveals how easy it is to support AI-generated websites, along with ongoing challenges related to the lack of transparency for where programmatic advertising dollars go.
NewsGuard identified 393 programmatic ads from 141 major brands which appeared on 55 out of 217 UAINs between May and June 2023. The ads were found by analysts using the internet in the U.S., Germany, France and Italy. All of the ads ran besides articles containing errors produced by AI generated chatbots. Over 90% were delivered by Google Ads. As advertisers were potentially unaware of their presence on such sites, NewsGuard did not name them. However, it reported that the list of companies included banks, financial service firms, luxury department stores, two global e-commerce platforms and streaming services, among others.
UAINs have exploded in the past few months, with content appearing on the sites written largely by bots. These sites have little to no human oversight and have the potential to churn out an incredible amount of content. One site identified by NewsGuard produces over 1,200 articles a day on average. NewsGuard has identified 217 such websites, which it tracks on its UAIN site tracker. This is up from just 49 a month ago. Many of these websites do not display advertisements from major brands, or run programmatic advertising at all.
The report further highlights the challenges of programmatic advertising, as not only is brand image harmed by appearing on such sites, but the money spent for such ads could be more effectively used elsewhere. The Association of National Advertisers found that $13 billion could be saved by improving programmatic advertising and excluding click-bait from ad buys. However, NewsGuard suggests that this may not be so simple. The company notes that while many brands and advertising agencies keep “do not include” lists, these may not be able to keep pace with AI technology.