Wrapping up 2021 at the Conscious Advertising Network

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The last year has been a big one for us at the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN). From landmark policy changes with Google to creating guides to conscious media investment in partnership with WARC, we’ve seen our members and other industry bodies come together on campaigns that fight hate speech and misinformation, highlighting the need for more conscious media investment. It has been humbling, and couldn’t have happened without our volunteers, supporters and our members.

Simply put, the strength of CAN is its diversity of members and supporters, from the worlds of both advertising and civil society. Uniting our members is what makes us different, and having you in our corner is crucial to our success. With global expansion, further policy work with the major tech platforms and in-house investigations on the horizon for 2022, we couldn’t be more grateful to have them on our side.

We’ve outlined our milestones below. Thank you for supporting us — here’s to another successful year of working closer together.

Welcoming new members — British Gas, GSK, Havas, SSE, and more

Over the last year, we have seen our membership grow to over 150 members. We welcomed British Gas, Group M, GSK, Havas, OMG, SSE, and more, who are now all working towards our manifestos and implementing them to make more conscious media investment choices. We couldn’t do what we do without the backing of our members — being able to say that we have all of you behind us allows us to do the work that we do.

Forums with Google, Meta and Twitter

At CAN, we hold regular forums with the big tech platforms and media owners, and bring brands, agencies, and civil societies to those meetings as experts to define the problem. We present compelling reasons for change and create (or amend existing) policies that address our manifestos.

Over the last year, we’ve met with Google, Meta and Twitter to discuss issues including climate misinformation, children’s wellbeing and hate speech. These meetings have led to important discussions and commitments from the platforms on further policy changes.

Evidence to the Select Committee on the Online Safety Bill

Earlier this year, we were invited by the DCMS sub committee on online harms and disinformation to give evidence on the Online Safety bill, based on our work around our manifestos, particularly misinformation and hate speech. We stated that there should be:

  • A very clear definition of disinformation and misinformation within the Online Harms Bill and how it intersects with laws on Freedom of Expression. We also recommended that, within the bill, there should also be clear definitions of dis/misinformation that contradicts the scientific consensus on public health and climate change; undermines democratic elections; and protects those who are most marginalized and vulnerable in our societies.

CAN’s comments were included in the report from the Joint Committee’s meeting on the draft Online Safety Bill and the final draft of the Bill will be published next year.

Tackling hate speech on social media

Following the dreadful racist abuse directed to Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka online, we worked on an open letter to the social media platforms in question, asking for specific changes to their guidelines to eliminate hate speech.

The letter was one of solidarity. The work done over the years to confront racism in the game by football bodies such as Kick it Out, the PFA, Show Racism the Red Card, individual footballers and campaigners has been incredible. These are the people that have done the hard work over decades to kick racism out of football and society. This letter aimed to support these efforts, to shine a light on areas we felt the social media platforms needed to do more and more quickly.

We gathered 400 signatures from brands, agencies, civil society groups and individuals; received responses from all the platforms we addressed; saw a policy change at Snap as a direct result of our letter and saw Thierry Henry present our demands at this year’s WebSummit.

Thierry Henry presenting at WebSummit 2021

Tackling climate misinformation

Following 18 months of work with us, Google announced a new monetization policy for Google advertisers, publishers and YouTube creators that will “prohibit ads for, and monetization of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.” The policy includes content referring to climate change as a hoax or a scam, claims denying that long-term trends show the global climate is warming, and claims denying that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change.

Our work on climate misinformation didn’t stop there — we collected 300+ signatures from individuals and organisations on our open letter at COP26. As a result, we embedded the concept and urgency of the issue within the organisations and institutions faced with solving this problem. With signatures including key architect of the Paris Climate Agreement, Laurence Tubiana, Bill Hare, CEO of Climate Analytics and Nobel Peace Prize winning IPCC scientist, Al Gore’s The Climate Reality Project, WWF International, COP26 Principal Partners SSE and Sky, activists and campaigners including Friends of the Earth, Avaaz and even Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja, and with coverage in Forbes, The New Statesman, Marketing Week, Adweek, The Drum, we pushed the conversation around climate misinformation, and advertisers’ role in it, up the agenda. For more information on how you can ensure your media investment supports climate action, see the Change the Narrative report, produced for the IPA in partnership with Media Bounty, Pulsar and Cheq.

Securing funding and new hires

Over the summer, we secured funding from two philanthropic foundations — QCF and ECF — for our first-ever paid roles at CAN. We now have Marsha Jackson as Project Director, Alex Murray as Civil Society Partnerships Manager, Eline Yara Jeanné as Investigations Officer and Katie Chodosh as Brand Partnerships Manager. Having more hands-on-deck will allow us to broaden our scope and strengthen our relationships with members to create a more conscious advertising industry. You can read more about our funding here.

Gearing up for global growth

One of the main objectives for CAN is to expand globally, to allow other regions to implement the measures we have in place in the UK. With that in mind, two boards were created — the Get Sh*t Done (GSD) Board, co-chaired by Tina Fegent and Dino Myers-Lamptey, and the Global Growth Board. The GSD Board has been working hard creating the blueprint for CAN, for other regions to work from, as well as operationally leading on activities such as event speaking, member recruitment, member onboarding, PR and comms, and education and training. The Global Growth Board has been meeting and planning CAN’s global growth, identifying the first regions to expand into. Watch this space for further developments.

With huge thank you to our Get Sh*t Done volunteer board members: Tina Fegent, Dino Myers-Lamptey, Laura Lesser, Suzie Rook, Paul Gibbs, Megan Kirby, Karen Esslinger, Kwai Chi, Emily Burke, George Harding-Rolls, Jane White, Elizabeth Anyaegbuna and Natalie Morris-Girlanda.

And another huge thank you to our Global Growth Board members: Jerry Daykin, Pia Oberoi, Christopher Kenna, Clare Melford, Stevan Randjelovic, Amir Malik and Greg James.

The WARC guide to conscious media investment

Our co-founders Jake Dubbins and Harriet Kingaby guest-edited The WARC Guide to conscious media investment, which provides a summary of new thinking and best practice on conscious media investment. It explains what conscious media investment means for advertisers, agencies and media owners, and features lessons from brands including Diageo, GSK, HMD, Virgin Media O2 and Reebok. It also has thought leadership from some of our civil society group members, such as The UN, Stop Funding Hate and The Antisemitism Policy Trust, to give perspective on the impact that conscious media investment could have for society as a whole.

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The Conscious Advertising Network is a voluntary coalition of over 70 organisations on a mission to stop advertising abuse. www.consciousadnetwork.org

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The Conscious Advertising Network is a voluntary coalition of over 70 organisations on a mission to stop advertising abuse. www.consciousadnetwork.org