To carve out an ethics-centric future, we need to look to our greatest asset: our talent. I believe creating a future generation of ethical advertising practitioners will be vital to creating a media ecosystem that is more inclusive, sustainable, and viable.
Why Now? Our Opportunity
We are facing a cultural and technological storm that demands action. Recent political events, like Brexit and the U.S. 2020 election, put into sharp focus the massive risks from misinformation and disinformation and their impact on public discourse.
The war between Russia and Ukraine likewise illustrates the long shadow that platforms can cast on truth.
While misinformation is not new in society, the staggering reach of today's platforms to amplify misinformation is. Far from weakening, this amplification seems to be proliferating on an ever-rapid trajectory.
By supporting certain platforms, advertisers have a responsibility to build an ethical framework that supports balanced, objective, and truthful media.
In doing so, we can cultivate a collective ethical voice to pressure the platforms for change that we are not powerful enough to pressure alone. Core to this is galvanizing our people and talent.
Certified Ethical Practitioners: The Agents for ChangeRealtors, lawyers, journalists, accountants, bankers -- and many more professionals -- have ethics integrated into their formal academic training and in their daily practice.
The advertising industry -- and broader stakeholders -- must do the same.
Arming talent in the industry with the tools to build the ethical system, and nurture a culture where ethics are central, will provide the space for meaningful change and prevent us from making the types of mistakes we have made in the past.
Today, through the Institute of Advertising Ethics (IAE), agencies and brands have a framework to build the future generation of certified ethical practitioners.
The IAE offers a clear, structured curriculum and certification process -- the first independently created certification for our industry -- supporting us as we strive to create and operate in an ethical media ecosystem.
As a founding, corporate champion of the IAE, Havas Media Group believes in the curriculum, the certification, the actionable next steps, and the power of the framework's ability to be a catalyst for change that goes hand in hand with commercial performance.
IAE certification articulates the highest ethical standards, giving people a framework to ask ethical questions, engage with the problems and identify solutions to bring about change with an independent body with strong academic oversight.
Having spent a good portion of my career in ad tech, it’s clear to me that applying the IAE's principles in an "ethics by design" approach would have solved for many of the issues created by a “tech first” approach that had to be tackled retrospectively by point solutions and industry bodies.
This is why principle eight -- "Advertisers and their agencies, and online and offline media, should discuss privately potential ethical concerns, and members of the team creating ads should be given permission to express internally their ethical concerns" -- is so important to us.
If you are in any business in communications or advertising and this principle makes you uncomfortable, why is that?
Ethical is Good Business – and Good Business is Ethical
As CEAE (Certified Ethical Advertising Executives) we should move beyond "the ethics of compliance" and deliver on the "ethics of achievement" and being a force for societal good. Rather than simply saying "this isn’t right, this isn't ethical," let's hold ourselves to the upmost ethical standards as an industry, and push ourselves to go further.
It's about showing up from a perspective anchored in an ethical framework, rooted in sincerity, which sees brands embracing sustainability -- in the broadest sense of the term.
In addition to respecting the environment and the planet's future, pragmatic factors for business continuation and the sustainability of society must also prevail.
Sustainability spans business, people and the planet.
In the case of inclusive advertising, there is also a commercial imperative there. It doesn't make sense not to lean in, not to fund LGBTQ+ creators.
It doesn't make sense to not support minority creators and minority publishers starting out. We know it works -- we see it in both the brand lift and the improvement in brand metrics from connecting with consumers through their most Meaningful Media. This is what we at Havas call great Media Experience (Mx).
Key to good Media Experience is trust. We know that while consumers want to do business with people and companies they can trust, 53% of consumers believe that brands "trust wash." By backing high-quality journalism, monetizing this media, brands can effectively change this consumer sentiment and rebuild trust.
On a personal note, I believe that inclusive, representative capitalism is the very best system devised by humanity for the stability of our species and the betterment of us all.
It’s no coincidence that advertising's share of GDP is inversely correlated with the Gini-coefficient (a measure of wealth inequality). As communications professionals, we have not just an opportunity but a responsibility to nurture and protect this system; focusing on ethics is the way to do this.
A Call to Brands and Agencies
Brands and agencies, students, apprentices, and teachers -- be part of the IAE curriculum, become certified, support your talent to become certified ethics practitioners and attract new talent who want to be agents of ethical change.
Win in the marketplace by being the change that consumers want to see.
NOW is the time.