Advertising’s hand in disinformation



In her excellent TED Talk, CAN (Conscious Advertising Network) Co-Founder Harriet Kingaby highlighted a quote from Lord Puttnam:

People no longer have faith that they can rely on information they receive or believe what they are told

Lord Puttnam, Member of House of Lords

The distrust of information is well-founded too. The Lords Select Committee on Democracy and Digital Technologies of which Lord Puttnam is the Chair, described how we are suffering from ‘a pandemic of misinformation’; one that “poses an existential threat to our democracy and way of life.”

Misinformation and climate change

One of the key areas in which this misinformation runs rife is climate change. The topic is one that’s had to endure skepticism in the face of scientific evidence since it was first uttered. It’s therefore ripe for misinformation, with plenty of sources spouting laughable claims about its validity. 

What’s far from funny though is the level of brands that unknowingly support this content through their ads. And the scale to which disinformation is funded by advertising.

Over $600 billion is spent on advertising each year with $235 million in revenue generated annually from ads running on extremist and disinformation websites. Even though many of the brands advertising have science-based climate goals, their videos nevertheless book-end videos calling climate change out as a hoax. 

This has only escalated during Covid, as videos denouncing masks and vaccines pile up online. As Harriet Kingaby says, the way we consume news has changed, and our platforms are designed not to inform concisely, but to keep us there, hopping from video to video. In her words, “Salacious content is preferred to boring truths.”

How to support CAN

This fight against fake news is just one of the fronts on which CAN is fighting. And just one of the reasons why we’re proud to be partners with them and to back their cause. Hate speech, children’s wellbeing, anti-ad fraud, diversity and informed consent make up the remaining manifestos at the heart of how CAN intend to change the world. 

And they’re not doing it alone. We’re delighted to be supporters of CAN, and want to renew our call for others to join the mission too. Together we can stop advertising abuse and ensure good practice. The majority of us may be focussed on leaving the world a better place than we found it, but if the ads we’re producing (regardless of their content) are funding hate speech, then it’s all for nothing.  

CAN counts brands such as O2, KIND, The Body Shop, and more among their supporters. Whilst our member agencies, Media Bounty, John Ayling & Associates, Havas Media Group, Republic of Media, and Total Media are also on board with their mission. If you’re not, then we recommend you have your mind changed here

This November, the UK plays host to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. With the hopefully impending end of the worst of coronavirus, it’s time we were reminded of the ever-escalating fight against climate change. This includes disinformation surrounding it. 

The New Yorker editor David Remnick said recently how, “There is no vaccine for climate change.” This may be true, but how we can help in the immediate future is clear. By stopping mistruths in their tracks and giving the efficacy of accurate and fact-checked information a much needed boost.  

Show your support and sign up to help end abuse in advertising. 

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