The Conscious Ad Network on 2020 and the United Nations
Speaking with Mediatel's Steven Scaffardi during the Media Leaders Awards 2021, the co-founders of The Conscious Advertising Network reflect on their achievements over the last year and their hopes for the year ahead
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement over the last 12 months?
In a year many would prefer to forget, Harriet Kingaby, co-founder of the Conscious Advertising Network, described her amazement at “the groundswell of support” that the organisation had. Beginning 2020 with 17 members, the network has now grown to over 100.
From civil society members like the NUS, to anti-hate charities like TellMAMA, right through to huge brands like O2, “every organisation that joined [The Conscious Advertising Network] is looking at embedding ethics into the way that it buys and sells its advertising,” Kingaby said.
Co-founder Jake Dubbins added that the involvement of such a variety of organisations is one of the key drivers of the network, contributing to its “uniqueness”.
In particular, Dubbins pointed to the work that The Conscious Advertising Network members do to pull the funding from anti-semitic and islamaphobic sites, and militia organisers in the U.S.
“Bringing that to the attention of the industry is some of our best work,” Dubbins explained.
Why is it so important that the media industry is there to drive positive change?
Since the inception of The Conscious Advertising Network, Dubbins said that he has seen a change in how the industry looks at ethics and responsibility within the media. That said, the industry is still taking time to understand that investing in digital advertising involves both influence and responsibility.
Responsibilities include the need to protect freedom of speech and pluralistic narratives online, and the responsibility that advertisers and their partners have to not support hate, misinformation and exploitation of minority communities.
Adding to Dubbins’ point, Kingaby explained that you can also harness the power of the media industry to make a positive impact with your advertising pounds. “Not only do we have the power to change hearts and minds with the content we put out there, but [we can] ensure that our advertising money is going to fund the good content,” Kingaby said.
“If we think about our responsibility, then we are not only going to have better media and more effective advertising, but we are also going to have a more respectful and better web environment which shapes ongoing cultural narratives [like climate change]."
What are your plans and hopes for the year ahead?
The drive for responsibility in advertising is central to The Conscious Advertising Network’s strategic priorities for the year ahead, where focus will be directed at COP26, The UN Climate Change Conference.
“We have an opportunity to create the kind of agreements that are going to give hope to the entire planet for the future, and I think that advertising and media has a massive role in ensuring that that conference is a success,” Kingaby said.
Agreeing, Dubbins continued: “We are in a climate emergency, and the decisions that our leaders will take need to be based on science and fact, rather than disinformation. COP26 is my north star because it encompasses disinformation, division, anti-science and unilateralism. We have a huge role to play.”