Spotlight on Conscious Advertising Network (CAN)

CAN are a voluntary coalition that ensures industry ethics catch up with the technology of modern advertising. Currently, they have over 150 members and are on the lookout for more members to join from brands, agencies & civil societies. We wanted to hear all about what they've been up to this year.

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Describe CAN in three words

Conscious, collaborative, system-thinkers.

What makes you unique?

The Conscious Advertising Network are a voluntary coalition that ensures industry ethics catches up with the technology of modern advertising. We unite brands, agencies and civil societies, to create new precedents within the industry and encourage conscious media investment.

Tell us something we don’t know about CAN?

We have more than 150 members, ranging from agencies Havas Media Group, Group M and OMG, to brands including GSK, Virgin O2 and British Gas, and civil society groups The Antisemitism Policy Trust, Glitch and Global Disinformation Index. We have spoken at the UN General Assembly meeting on the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Forum for Business and Human Rights twice.

What work are you most proud of?

Earlier this year, following the dreadful racist abuse directed to Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after the Euro 2020 final, we wrote an open letter to the CEOs of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, asking them to implement measures that address hate speech hosted on their platforms. We’re proud to say that 400 brands, agencies, civil society groups and individuals signed the open letter, and we received responses from each of the platforms we addressed. You can see their responses here.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge is recruiting new members! We’re always looking for more brands and agencies to join CAN, because the more members we have, the more knowledge we can share and the more work we can do. CAN is also largely run by volunteers. Their commitment and passion are what drives the organisation, even when their time and capacity is limited.

What are you doing to transform the way you work with clients?

Over the course of next year, we will be introducing new processes that make it easier for agencies and brands to sign up to CAN; more regular audits to measure their engagement; and members-only events and programs. We want to encourage more networking between members, so that we can share best-practice, particularly across brands, agencies and civil society groups. A lot of us work in an advertising bubble and sometimes have no idea about the world of human rights or climate science - CAN brings all that together.

If you could give clients one piece of advice what would it be?

To take the time to truly understand the impact that media investment has, and get both senior management and the resources in place to effect change. Media creates narratives that shape peoples’ online and physical experiences and advertising funds that. This means that media investment choices can either support – or hinder – diversity and inclusion goals, as well as climate change and wider sustainability initiatives.

How are you future-proofing?

We received funding earlier this year for our first-ever paid roles at CAN, giving us more scope to further our work and strengthen our relationship with members to create a more conscious advertising industry. We are also setting up the volunteer Get Sh*t Done (GSD) Board chaired by Tina Fegent and Dino Myers-Lamptey. The GSD board's aim is to produce the blueprint for CAN, that will act as a playbook for the new Global Growth Board to replicate in other parts of the world with our partners at the UN.

Marketing predictions for the next year?

It will only become more important for marketers to know exactly where their ads are appearing, what they are funding and making conscious choices according to their values.

We are also about to undergo an enormous climate transformation that we have not seen in our lifetimes. Reducing carbon emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement will disrupt entire sectors - those ahead of the curve will do well and be proud of their impact on society. Those behind or refusing to move with the science will either fail or become pariahs.

Best kept secret for Friday drinks (or this can answer how you’re virtually winding down the week OR what you can’t wait for when we’re all back in the office)?

There are now so many people involved in CAN that it would be amazing to have a proper get-together!

See more from CAN here on their website.

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