Consumers expect action
“The time for hiding is over,” explains Dubbins who has a clear message for marketers: “The advertising ecosystem is your supply chain. You are responsible for it. You can either choose to turn a blind eye or step up and be part of solving the problem.”
“If you just say words without taking action those words will be found to be hollow. If you are talking about committing to Black Lives Matter by posting a black box and a hashtag on your social channels but also funding white supremacy through your advertising, you will be found out. If you are committed to reducing your carbon emissions and contributing to a net zero economy but you are also funding climate science denial through your advertising, you will be found out,” he adds.
The Conscious Advertising Network is a voluntary coalition of over 70 organisations, and it has continued to build momentum and gain support across the industry because it provides a clear action-orientated framework in which to operate. The organisation has focused on ensuring that the industry ethics catch up with the technology of modern advertising. It focuses on eradicating advertising fraud, ensuring the industry and the content it produces is diverse, that people are seen as active participants in their online experience, that hate speech is not inadvertently funded by brands, that advertisers don’t fund fake news and that advertising to children is age appropriate.
Brands stepping up
It is a manifesto which is continuing to build support from some of the UK’s biggest brands. Earlier this month O2 became the latest brand to sign up, supporting CAN, and in particular its Fake News manifesto to continue to combat the deluge of misinformation and conspiracy theories which surround 5G. A toxic spread of misinformation which has led to the abuse of engineers, including those working on a mast that serves the Nightingale hospital in East London.
Nina Bibby, Chief Marketing Officer at O2 explains: “The misinformation around 5G is just one example of the damage that fake news can cause. As a provider of technology it is our responsibility to ensure it is used as a positive force for good.” O2, which is the first network operator to join CAN, says the move marks its commitment to helping the industry establish “clear ethics and practises that positively impact consumers’ lives and wellbeing.”
The need for collective effort to tackle the context in which advertising appears has risen up the marketing agenda in recent months. For Dubbins consumer awareness of the role of context in advertising has “unequivocally” increased.
“There are multiple public campaigns popping up all over the world making the link between the content published on the platforms or in media and the brands that fund that content through advertising,” he explains. Dubbins points to the rise of Sleeping Giants, the activist group already in the US, France and Australia, while Stop Funding Hate in the UK have kicked off a campaign called Stop Funding Heat which raises awareness of advertising funded climate denial.
It’s a truly global movement, one that brands need to act on, as he explains: “There are groups in Poland confronting anti-Semitism and homophobia funded by advertising, people in India shining a light on ad-funded anti-Muslim hatred and [others] in Australia highlighting anti-immigrant rhetoric and climate denial content. This awareness is going global quickly and is becoming a key issue for brands.”