As generative AI spreads, it’s starting to reach the ads we hear on podcasts and on the radio.
To start Adthos launched a platform this week that uses AI to generate scripts for audio ads – and even add voiceovers, sound effects and music. Customers can optionally go in and edit the ads using a browser-based, multi-track editor, yielding a “fully produced” ad that can be played through integrations with radio automation systems and ad servers.
Adthos CEO Raoul Wedel presents the platform as a way for advertisers to produce “efficient self-service” and “instant” high-audio ads – and for publishers to “support long-tail revenue streams” by creating self-service ad-buying platforms.
“The real game changer is that a small advertiser can run a high-quality ad in a minute or two,” Wedel said, noting the potential for localization and personalization.
But the platform — like many embracing generative AI technology — raises ethical questions.
The Adthos platform consists of a mix of in-house technology and third-party APIs. To generate ad scripts, Adthos uses OpenAI’s recently released GPT-4 text production model. And on the voice side, Adthos curated a library of hundreds of synthetic voices, including – according to Wedel – “Emmy Award-winning” voice actors and talents.
Wedel says the voice actors are “fully aware” of the platform and have paid either a flat fee or a license fee for using their voice, based on their preferences. “Adthos has already paid hundreds of thousands of royalties to voice actors,” he added.
But what’s unclear is whether all those voice actors chose to be included in Adthos’ library in the first place.
Vice recently reported that actors are being asked to sign away rights to their voices so that clients can use AI to generate synthetic versions that they can eventually replace. The contract language is often ambiguous, the voice actors say, with some actors reportedly being told they can’t be hired without agreeing to clauses giving away the right to use their voices for synthetic training.
Wedel has not disclosed the contractual terms of Adthos’ arrangements. But he reaffirmed that voice actors on the platform have signed permission and licensing agreements.
“We use real voice actors for synthetic voice training. We train and select them based on our experience in markets and ad creation,” says Wedel. “We created our own training datasets and recording software for the talent to record their voice.”
Wedel added that actors are given some control over how their voices are used on the platform, such as choosing to avoid being used in certain ad categories, such as religious or political ads.
Asked about what steps, if any, Adthos takes to moderate the content generated by its platform, Wedel said its job is to review ads before they are finalized and broadcast to clients and publishers.
Generative AI, especially text-generating AI, has a tendency to go off the rails. For example, OpenAI’s AI-powered chatbot, ChatGPT making up facts and reinforcing ethnic and gender stereotypes. If an Adthos client were to fully automate the ad generation process, they risk producing toxic, offensive and ultimately harmful ads – an undesirable outcome for any brand, for sure.
Wedel notes that OpenAI does some filtering at the API level. But, perhaps realizing that alone isn’t enough, he says Adthos plans to add content moderation “as the platform evolves,” including rules about words or terms not allowed in ads.
“It’s up to the publisher to keep a human being informed,” Wedel said. “But we have specific requirements, such as revealing the AI nature of the ads and only using voiceover talent with their permission.”
In any case, Adthos claims to have several paying customers, including the Dutch media conglomerate Talpa, and advertisers and agencies such as GroupM, Dentsu and Sportradar.
I asked Wedel outright if he was concerned that Adthos’ platform could cost marketing and advertising agencies and businesses jobs. He quoted Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, as saying that it was a “conscious choice” to start early conversations in society about what’s to come when it comes to AI.
“There will undoubtedly be job losses. But the people who prepare and embrace AI will thrive and be more productive,” said Wedel. “Those who don’t will be the ones who lose jobs.”