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By Jake Dubbins & Tina Fegent
Conscious Advertising Network calls on marketing procurement to ensure all RFPs, contracts and audits enshrine ethical advertising standards
Every RFP issued, every contract drafted, every audit, must have these principles embedded into the procurement process.
Procurement’s role to date in the sourcing of agencies has been predominately cost focused much to the aghast of agencies and suppliers who traditionally have not had to justify their commercial models, often set in a client world of moving scopes of work and tighter and tighter deadlines with reducing budgets.
But set against the environment that we are now facing within both the economic and social world that our marketing bubble sits in, procurement have to effect change. We have to make sure that our partners are fit for the future and have the conscious and the correct checks and balances in place to prevent issues such as ad fraud, misinformation and inappropriate advertising to children are stopped.
Advertising funds the internet
The industry has been slow to recognise its influence and power in shaping our online experience. We have rushed to find cleverer ways to target consumers with messages wherever they are, on the phones, tablets, TVs. There are of course upsides to better targeting. If done well and with care we can serve relevant ads and experiences to people who actually may be interested in what you have to say. That said, people have never asked to be inundated by more and more advertising wherever they turn. Largely the industry has been pretty pleased with itself as lots and lots of money has been made in the goldrush of adtech.
The missing piece, of course, is that advertising literally funds the internet. All of our social interaction online, our searches, our YouTube rabbit holes, the maps we use, pretty much everything is funded by advertising. And with great power comes great responsibility.
We are living in a unique time. The biological contagion of Covid-19 has changed everything. But in addition to that there are three other contagions, that of fear, misinformation and kindness.
The first two of these are inextricably linked. In these times people need reassurance to soothe their fear. They need to trust the information that they are relying on is truthful and transparent. Of course there is some fantastic content out there that performs these roles.
But, on the other hand there has been an explosion of misinformation so big it has been categorised as an ‘infodemic’. Conspiracy theories that 5G caused coronavirus and that the virus is a Chinese bio weapon are not just the work of harmless crackpots reach a few dozen people.
This content is getting huge audiences. And advertisers are paying for it. It is an economic model. Build an audience quickly using clickbait and deliberate misinformation, enable advertising, you’re in business. To confront this though brands must be conscious of where their advertising is appearing.
Just bluntly keyword blocking ‘coronavirus’ means your advertising is also not appearing in front of millions reading quality journalism. Doing nothing means your brand may be inadvertently funding David Icke’s theories on 5G which is leading to telecoms masts being attacked by arsonists.
Key role of procurement in ethical advertising
Procurement has a key role to play in this to make sure that the ethics of both their companies and of their agencies, both in a pitch process and in ongoing relationships are aligned to the Conscious Advertising Network’s six manifestos. Every RFP issued, every contract drafted, every audit must have these principles embedded into the procurement process.
We have to move away from cost managers and look for ‘value beyond savings’ – a term that many are using. We believe that social and ethical values are essential to who you select as your agency / suppliers in 2020 and onwards. You need trusted partners both in terms of commercials as well as ethics.
We are working with CIPS the Procurement Body to ensure that the CAN templates / training packs are available to all CIPS members. We are working closely with ISBA and their members. We have been really pleased to work with the majority of the agency search and selection intermediaries who have said that they will look to embed CAN into their agency briefing documents.
From working with procurement teams we want to get CAN embedded at the start of any key agency relationship. The key is the reporting back and we think that procurement can do that as part of their supplier management programme.
By procurement taking that bigger role in ‘value beyond savings’, professionals can ensure the advertising supply chain is transparent, we are conscious of where our ads are appearing and we are bolstering brand safety too. We are also doing much more. We are taking responsibility for the internet that we fund and so therefore keeping humans safe too.
About the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) and ethical advertising
The Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) is a voluntary coalition of over 70 organisations set up to ensure that industry ethics catches up with the technology of modern advertising.
CAN’s mission is to stop advertising abuse by highlighting the conscious choices advertisers and agencies can make to ensure good practice.
CAN have developed a set of six manefestos, with the aim of getting principles embedded in every UK agency brief.
About the authors
For helpful information from CAN read: How COVID-19 impacts your brand on social media.
Tina Fegent is Director of Recruitment (pro-bono) for CAN and Founder Tina Fegent Consultancy offering marketing procurement consultancy service to clients at a strategic level to help identify what is required to make marketing procurement a success in an organisation.