AmCham Macedonia Summer 2017 (Issue 54) - Page 17

COVER STORY Summer 2017 / Issue 54 Ethics in Digital Advertising Digital Advertising 101With great power comes great responsibility. This oft-quoted Spiderman movie phrase suits the topic of advertising ethics, especially in the digital field that is largely unregulated and too complex to be universally under- stood and regulated by advertisers themselves. In this day and age, marketers have the power to place strategic communication across a variety of channels on top of the traditional package (radio, TV, out- door). We see examples of that on a daily basis; almost all local and global campaigns are present on Facebook, Instagram, Google, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and others. Most of these digital plat- forms offer marketers tools that allow them to segment audiences very precisely, then track and “deep dive” into very specific and thorough analytical data that gauge the effectiveness of their communi- cations and customer habits. Meanwhile, most customers are completely unaware that every- thing they do on these platforms is being used to improve marketers’ effectiveness. While the platforms themselves self-regulate to some extent, it is not very effective in smaller markets like Macedonia; bad and unethical ads can go unnoticed for days, even weeks, mostly because of the total ad vol- ume, language barriers or delays in the ads being reported as unethi- cal by users. Add to that the ‘fake news’ phe- nomenon, which is highly present here due to the same lack of self- or formal regulation. The result is a ton of online portals and websites that offer any kind of “news” you can imagine selling ad space with no questions asked.How Can Eth- ical Advertisers Survive Here? When an advertiser comes to an agency or a marketer and provides them with a set of requests and a budget, it entrusts its message to the marketer’s judgement in help- ing their company move forward, stand still or even go backwards. History is full of examples where bad advertising ruined a company. Damjan Dano, Co-founder & Partner, IWM Network In the absence of self-regulating advertising bodies and a coherent set of relevant laws, here are some tips to avoid unethical advertising in the digital era. #1 Paid vs. Editorial Content This is a no-brainer. News and editorial content should be clearly differentiated from paid ads. Many local advertisers don’t disclose paid content, and even more editors of online media encourage and accept this practice. This is unethical because customers are tricked into thinking the content they’re reading is written according to the standards of professional journalists, while it is actually strategic adver- tising that is directly or indirectly promoting a product or service.Want to avoid this? Add the labels “Sponsored” or “Promoted content” visi- ble in either the article title or somewhere before users engage with the content. Ideally, you should tell readers who paid for the promoted PR text if no logo or company is mentioned. #2 Big clients ≠ Editorial Power Big clients have big advertising budgets. Too often, they spend advertising funds only with platforms that commit not to publish any criticism of them while their ad campaign is running. This is unethical because it is a form of direct censorship. Want to avoid this? Advertisers need to understand that just because they place ads on a certain website, they do NOT own it, nor have the right to dictate what is published there. It is also unacceptable for editors to accept such requests and thereby abuse the trust given to them by their readers. Editors should, thus, abide by journalistic ethics and marketers should understand that they are buying a service, not editorial power. #3 If it has unethical content, skip it! If a marketer places their advertising on a channel that spreads unethical content (e.g., racism, insults, religious discrimination), the brand they represent will be tainted by the channel’s lack of ethics. People’s decision making process depends to a large extent on their unconscious mind; if your ad is placed next to unethical content, rest assured that somewhere in readers’ subconscious, you will be seen as supporting that content.Want to avoid this? Focus your campaigns on quality, not on quantity. Read the numbers and carefully consider what they mean, bearing in mind that while a site may have a lot of visitors, it may be due to their habit of publishing controversial headlines, insult- ing content or manipulating readers voyeurism. Avoid fake news by staying clear of channels that publish articles without authors’ names, and most definitely keep your distance from media that don’t have a clear structure of ownership (i.e., Impressum) and contact information. #4 Tricking Customers on Social Media Social media is the heart of the jungle. Almost every customer with Internet access is using it for a few hours each day, leaving vast amounts of personal information available for misuse. Because of the above-mentioned tools provided by the various social media platforms, marketers have the power to segment customers into extremely spe- cific groups – for example, on Facebook marketers can target peo- ple who have recently changed their relationship status from married to divorced. Advertiser should use this kind of narrow tar geting with extreme caution to avoid manipulating their customer’s emotional state for monetary gain.Want to avoid this? As a marketer, respect your cus- tomers. Avoid manipulating vulnerable people at any cost. If you are using a segmented audience that is in a sensitive state, be careful with your messaging and know that your ad could affect another human being negatively. As a client, hold your agency/marketer to high ethical standards. AmCham Macedonia Magazine 17