Consumers are signaling that prioritizing ethical advertising is now in the best interest of brands. With 86% of global consumers stating that they care about the privacy of their data and that they want more control over it, data transparency must be a high priority for brands. Furthermore, as two-thirds of U.S. consumers prefer buying from brands that align with their personal values, the onus is on advertisers to serve relevant ads that reflect their customers’ principles.
Ethical advertising addresses these consumer needs and strives for transparency and authenticity in all consumer interactions. Alongside protecting user data and being open about how it’s used, ethical advertising includes delivering high-quality ads and verifying the suitability of ad environments. So, what actions can brands take to ensure that they’re delivering genuinely ethical advertising?
1. Support Quality Journalism To Sustain The Industry
As a first step, brands should look to work with publishers that offer quality journalism to their readers. Advertisers are increasingly aware of the need to position their ads alongside quality content to earn consumer trust and direct spend away from malicious publications. By supporting quality journalism, brands directly fund organizations looking to inform and educate their audiences.
Additionally, news outlets distributing unreliable, non-informed content can cause damage to brands simply via association. At best, brands risk ineffective campaigns should ads appear in irrelevant environments. At worst, they could suffer reputational damage from being seen to endorse harmful content. To begin safeguarding against this, Google announced in late 2021 that it would block ads from appearing next to content denying climate change, due to the risk it presented to brand reputation. This demonstrates how critical it is for brands to be selective when choosing publishing partners, as well as the platforms they use to purchase their ads.
2. Leverage Contextual Intelligence To Secure Suitable Placements
Traditional methods of identifying potentially harmful content, such as block lists and keyword blocking, are often too broad to be optimal. They can eliminate viable placements along with the unsuitable ones, causing advertisers to miss out on opportunities. By instead working with trusted technology partners and adopting methods such as contextual intelligence, brands can access higher-quality ad environments.
AI-powered contextual intelligence deciphers the sentiment of content based on its grammatical structure and word choice. This process, known as natural language processing, provides semantic analysis that supports advertisers in selecting relevant and suitable premium placements. Brands can then harmonize their ad creative and messages with relevant content in a privacy-safe manner.
As contextual intelligence only relies on data about the content to target desired audiences, consumers benefit from being served quality online ads without compromising their personal information. Brands generate engagement through relevance, while audiences receive a tailored online experience that doesn’t require their individual data.
3. Be Transparent And Communicate Brand Values
To be truly ethical, all brands should be clear about their intentions and have no hidden agenda. They also should follow best practices such as:
- Avoiding clickbait.
Brands must strike the right balance between encouraging consumers to interact with ads and tricking them into doing so. Clickbait is as bad for brands as it is for news publishers. The use of misleading, or even sensationalist, ad creative and messages to drive engagement wastes consumers’ time. Ultimately, this doesn’t deliver real value to brands, so they should ensure that their ads don’t pressure or deceive audiences in any way.
- Being ethical with user data.
Consumers should be able to control who can use their personal information, as well as be appropriately informed about how these parties will use it. Brands must be transparent about their intentions when collecting data on existing or prospective customers, while also aiming to work with publishers that clearly communicate their data processes to their online audiences.
- Including core values in campaigns.
Research shows that 89% of consumers would pay a premium for brands that demonstrate an authentic purpose. This suggests that the ability to understand what customers want, and being able to creatively communicate brand values, can make or break a campaign. The key word here is “authentic” rather than “purpose,” however, as brands need to practice what they preach. For example, if a brand claims to care about the environment, it should also be implementing genuinely sustainable practices. Otherwise, it risks being called out by increasingly conscientious consumers.
Ethical advertising is essential in the privacy-first world. Brands must prioritize data transparency to foster positive relationships with consumers, which can also be reinforced through association with premium content and authoritative information. If advertisers support reputable publishers, they can successfully uphold brand safety measures, maintain consumer trust and enhance brand reputation.