The Coming Digital Revolution: Strengthening Ethics in Advertising

November 20, 2018

By Kevin Kelly

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In the world of advertising and marketing, having strong ethics and a "doing what's right" perspective is critical. In the Academy Award-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Frances McDormand's Mildred Hayes' character says, "When you can't trust the lawyers and the advertising men, what the hell's America coming to?" This line makes us laugh but is also jarring to hear. While the advertising industry has captured people's fascination with glamorous shows like Mad Men, it has also gotten a bad rap. Bigbuzz Marketing Group was founded in 1997 with the idea that the customer experience should be at the center of all marketing, advertising, and branding efforts. Making advertising and marketing truly authentic and helpful to the consumer is the only way it can work for the long-term. An approach that is helpful, fun, and interesting for customers is not only ethical, but will also make your product stand out in a positive way.


Today's Digital Revolution

Advertising and marketing can do better, and it starts with placing an emphasis on the customer experience. Agencies and brands need to take a more targeted approach to their marketing and be more transparent in their practices. If you're a brand, why would you want to show your wares to the wrong people? Someone with grown children will not be buying diapers, and someone who purchased a wedding ring is unlikely to purchase another one anytime soon. Why would the marketing tactics currently being used for these products not align with the customer realities? When you give the customer a discount on something they've demonstrated interest in buying, and show them things they will truly want or need, they are more likely to make a purchase. Agencies are now working toward value-based billing, where compensation is based on the value brought to the client, rather than hours worked.


Collaboration Between Brands and Agencies

Nike and Wieden+Kennedy have had a relationship for years. Recently, Nike released an ad featuring former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who started a movement by kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. The spot included the message: "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything." With this, Nike has created a very polarizing ad that touches people's hearts and minds. We have heard people say they are throwing away their Nike-branded belongings, while others say this is one of the most authentic ads ever created. Nike has shown a bravery in doing what's right. This is an example of how brands can make people's lives better. It starts with how agencies and brands collaborate. The bolder and more courageous brands and agencies will rise to the top and emerge victorious.


Ethics in Marketing and Advertising Begin at Home

Strong ethics and integrity are core values for any successful agency. Ethical practices start at your agency and how you treat your employees is everything. How you develop, nurture, and maintain the culture and talent at your agency is part of showing people and clients how you operate. Don't just squeeze by and meet a quota; rather, create a great work/life balance for staff while providing massive value to client partners. Focusing on exceeding expectations and excelling at what you do, rather than doing the minimum, is a major part of an ethical business model.


Getting the Attention You Deserve

When a brand asks you to be attention-getting in your approach as an agency, put yourselves in the consumers' shoes first. Shareholder value, employee happiness, high-quality content: all these things can be aligned if a brand has the right agency running its advertising and marketing. Risky or offbeat, no matter how clever the creative is, if it's not serving the customer, it should be avoided. The most important thing you can do is go back to your research to determine who the customer is and what they want. Put in the effort to learn more about their lives and understand how your brand fits in. Do you have an opportunity to make them feel better, nurture their minds or hearts, and increase connection with others? This is the true nature of an ethical approach — and one that works every time.


Kevin Kelly is the president of Bigbuzz Marketing Group, a 360-degree digital agency.


The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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