A voluntary UK coalition called the Conscious Advertising Network formed to inform businesses of their various responsibilities when advertising and to educate them on best practices in regards to fraud, diversity, informed consent, hate speech, child welfare, misinformation and, most recently, sustainability. The following summarises these areas on which CAN works on:
Anti-Ad Fraud - “The digital advertising ecosystem should be accountable for minimising ad-fraud across trading relationships”. Digital ad fraud generally refers to a situation in which an advertisement fails to reach its intended audience or location due to interference from bots, fake websites and other cyber criminal activities. This can contribute to the spread of misinformation, online hate speech, less effective advertising and have negative images on a brand’s reputation.
Diversity - “Ad agencies should ensure that content is as diverse as the society it serves, from research to strategy to media placement”. All businesses will be advertising to diverse audiences so it is necessary for businesses to consider what content is included in an advertisement, where they advertise, and how those advertisements are presented to ensure that no one is left out or offended. It is equally as important to have a diverse advertising department within a business to ensure that a variety of perspectives and backgrounds are incorporated into advertising practices.
Informed Consent - “People should be seen as active participants in, and controllers of, their own online experience”. Consumers should be aware of everything they may be consenting to when sharing their data with a business. It is the responsibility of a business to provide any necessary information about data collection processes in order to properly educate their consumers.
Hate Speech - “Advertisers should take action to make hate unprofitable by eradicating it from their media spend and supporting media that plays a positive role”. In many cases, irresponsible advertising practices can inadvertently spread hate speech and extremist content which can ostracise customers. By avoiding advertising on media sites that spread extremist views and advocating for media platforms in which they advertise to better monitor hate speech, businesses can play a role in protecting their consumers.
Children’s Wellbeing - “Advertising to children should be age appropriate, promote positive messaging and avoid glamorising negative behaviour”. Businesses must act responsibly when advertising towards children or on websites targeted at children, especially in regards to the types of data that the business may be collecting. By avoiding the collection of personal and behavioural data, businesses can contribute to protecting child privacy.
Misinformation - “Advertisers must take the responsibility to ensure they don’t fund misinformation, click-bait and any intentionally misleading content”. Businesses should choose to advertise on credible and reputable sites while also working with advertising agencies that have proven to choose accuracy and fairness over the profit that may come from spreading inaccurate information.
Sustainability - “The content advertisers create, and the processes by which they are created, should be sustainable and responsibly considered, avoiding creating or funding climate crisis misinformation”. Many consumers today care deeply about the environmental impact of products and services they purchase which has resulted in an increase of companies making false claims in their advertisements to appear more climate-friendly. Businesses should work to ensure that all claims regarding a product’s sustainability and environmental impact are truthful while also considering the impact that advertisements themselves can have.