We all know that we’re in a time of unprecedented disruption.  Brands are facing disruption. Businesses are being disrupted. Economies are facing disruption.  Countries are facing disruption. The global environment is facing disruption. Just last month, the Extinction Rebellion organisation issued a challenge to the global advertising industry to be a bigger part of the solution. 

The focus of discussions at Cannes was primarily around the type of unsavoury content that appears (and is left visible) on global digital platforms.  This is part of the ongoing drive to improve brand safety online. In the IAB SEA+India New Media Working Group we explored the idea that brands could take their actions further.  What if we employed the technology that helps to ensure brand safety and used it help brands invest their marketing budgets ethically?



Almost all brands employ some sort of while listing to ensure online brand safety and have traditionally made similar judgements about who they partner with across the whole of their marketing investment.  The same tools and processes that are used to safeguard brand reputation could be used to help brands support platforms that have more progressive employment practices or environmental practices or that support local business communities.  This approach would allow brands to support positive change with all of their marketing dollars, not just individual campaigns.

Wouldn’t Dove want to over invest with platforms that promote a positive body image for women?  Wouldn’t Ben & Jerry’s want to over invest with platforms that promote LGBT rights? If brands have purpose, that purpose could also be achieved by putting their money where their mouth is – so to speak.  Arguably that could have greater impact at scale than any single campaign.



It is clear that there are a lot of challenges with this approach.  One obvious challenge is how smaller platforms could work within this sort of framework.  It could be reasonably easy for a global platform with significant resources to provide the governance needed for this type of scheme to work, but much more difficult for a smaller player.

Another challenge is that ethical behaviour is relative and therefore imposing standards would be complex.  However, the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide a generally agreed framework for the direction of travel and all of the global advertising groups made a joint commitment to those goals at Cannes two years ago, so maybe the question of defining ethical behaviour is less complex than it may appear.

A final challenge that arose in the discussion was the need for action to be apparent at the level of an individual working in the industry and not just something that happens top down, at an advertising holding company level.  Once again, this was an area where the tools of the media trade could be part of the solution. Theoretically, we could give every agency planner and every brand manager the choice to invest their media budget more ethically. It could become a choice that’s made on a daily basis.  Plan by plan, campaign by campaign. If you could invest more ethically, without compromising your campaign goals, why wouldn’t you?        



At this time of global debate about the role and influence of advertising it seems relevant to ask whether we should shift the debate beyond just the environment in which our brands appear to include a more progressive agenda for the platforms we support.  

The ad industry is full of many buzzwords, but one that often crops up is ‘purpose’.  At a consumer level we are bombarded with advertising but as humans, we are much more likely to embrace causes.  Wouldn’t we all want to support brands who use advertising and technologies as a force for good? The very notion that we, as individuals working in advertising, can drive a positive impact on the environment is something very powerful, and isn’t something that we should be shying away from.

We are now entering an age in which we are all much more aware of the impact we have on society and the environment.  It would be great if this concept of ‘doing good’ was no longer an ideal, but instead something that we all strive for at an individual level and supported by all players in our industry to help us all push for good in our day to day work life.

This article was written by Katie Potter, Business Director for APAC at Teads, and Rohan Lightfoot, Chief Growth Officer for APAC at Mindshare. They are both members of IAB SEA+India’s New Media Working Group.