Conscious Ad Month: Together we CAN make a difference

Throughout July The Kite Factory have been participating in #ConsciousAdMonth, an initiative led by the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) which is a voluntary coalition of over 70 organisations setup to ensure our industry ethics catch up with the technology of modern advertising. There are six key areas covered by the manifesto; Anti ad-fraud, diversity, informed consent, hate speech, children’s well-being, and fake news.

Today as #ConsciousAdMonth comes to a close, we are more committed than ever in continuing the work to tackle these ethical challenges. Here is an overview of our executional strategies and ethos across each key workstream.

Anti Ad-Fraud

As the first independent IAB Gold accredited agency we have been proactive in the fight against fraud for several years working with market-leading MRC accredited partners such as MOAT and Adloox to detect and prevent fraud across all our client’s campaigns. All our media and technology partners use Ads.txt to prevent unauthorised inventory sales.


At the start of June, it was fantastic to see so many of our clients joining #BlackOutTuesday and pausing social media activity. As with a lot of organisations, the movement has made us pause and reflect on how we can be more proactive in promoting diversity in our agency and the wider industry. We have since created a cross-agency task force responsible for creating new initiatives including our approach to recruitment, educating our staff, stepping up our CSR activity and training in key areas such as unconscious bias.

Informed Consent

Over the past few years GDPR legislation has impacted how our clients and data partners collect and use information, with those without opt-ed in consent having to adapt to a significant loss in customer data. Now we face a new challenge of opt-ed in consent for cookies which underpins a lot of our tracking and targeting. Lockdown has slowed the rollout of legislation enforcement from the ICO but we are readily waiting for next steps. Whilst we cannot offer legal advice, we can provide examples of well executed consent management platforms and how to extract maximum value from compliant data to minimise the impact on performance and reporting.

Hate Speech

The majority of our clients have participated in the Stop Funding Hate initiative for several years, excluding publishers from their campaigns. More recently every client has been monitoring the ongoing Facebook boycott with several taking part in a bid to drive change. Throughout July we have supplied our clients with as much information as possible and tactics such as using negative terms on ads and posts. As most clients face the dilemma of balancing company values with gaining critical income at such a challenging time, we have remained neutral at an agency level and supported all decisions made by our clients. We have however, been lobbying Facebook to advance their work countering hate speech.

Children’s Well-being

None of our clients target an audience below the age of 18, but we are very conscious that younger audiences do see our activity. Children have an amazing ability to absorb huge amounts of information so any content that exposes them to stereotypical and damaging representations at frequency is an issue. We always challenge our clients and creative agency partners to have greater inclusion in broadcast creative and to break away from harmful narratives that label entire societal groups.

Fake News

The distribution of known incorrect information at scale has influenced political votes across the globe and opened a debate as to who is responsible for policing information on platforms that encourage user generated content. The digital ecosystem lacks the regulation of traditional media channels and attempts at government legislation have shown a lack of understanding of the complexities of our industry. This has made advertisers understandably nervous about appearing anywhere near sensitive content and whilst we can use negative keywords, blacklists, and pre-bid blocking technology, this can have unintentional harmful impacts.

The majority of blocking technology has a simple methodology of crawling content looking for words deemed inappropriate and then blocking them. However, this technology does not consider the semantics of how the word was being used, its contextual targeting that does not consider context. This means that important educational content that approaches sensitive subject areas in the right way are also blocked and both publishers and content writers who focus in these areas are not supported by advertising income. At The Kite Factory we are starting to dig deeper into our site targeting methodology and criteria, so we don’t apply a blanket exclusion across important content topics.

As we continue to develop these initiatives The Kite Factory way, we would encourage all clients and partners to not look at these six key areas as compliance projects, but an opportunity to take a step back and consider how you can proactively tackle these ethical challenges while aligning with your company’s values.

By Ben Foster, Director Of Digital