What Consumers Think About Conscious Advertising


Conscious advertising has received a lot of airtime in corporate boardrooms this past year. Media agencies such as Havas, GroupM and M&C Saatchi, along with brands like the Body Shop and Channel Factory itself, have all become members of the Conscious Advertising Network, with brands like Coca Cola and Unilever even pausing ad spend to ensure they were supporting the right type of media across social platforms.

The question is, do consumers care whether brands are more conscious of the choices they make in their media investments?

We put that question to 1000 U.S. consumers in a survey earlier this year, and the results are conclusive: consumers want brands to vote with their wallets and ensure they are monetizing the right type of content.1

What Are Consumers Saying?

“What we hear from consumers is that they care what kind of content their favourite brands are funding, what they are supporting and how their investments reflect their values,” said Stevan Randjelovic, director of brand safety and digital risk with GroupM. 

Our research found that 69% of consumers would prefer to buy from brands committed to socially conscious causes such as donating to charities, taking a stand on climate change or ensuring their corporate culture supports inclusivity and diversity.1 

They also want brands to help make the web a safe and more positive place, with 68% preferring to buy from brands who are committed to making online environments more positive, while almost two-thirds would prefer to buy from brands who are committed to making online environments more diverse and inclusive.

Furthermore, they want brands to make more deliberate decisions about the relevance of their ads to the content they run on. Contextual targeting is key, as 73% of consumers would be more likely to buy from brands whose ads are relevant to the content they’re consuming on YouTube.1

How Does Conscious Advertising Work?

It starts with the brands and the agencies. “Brands are thinking about media investment in terms of their corporate social responsibility” says Joshua Lowcock, EVP, Chief Digital & Innovation Officer with Universal McCann Worldwide, who joined Channel Factory on stage at the Brand Safety Summit in 2020.”They are trying to reflect ethical, value-based decisions about what’s positive and good for society in their media buying.”

At Channel Factory, we look at conscious advertising like this: a conscious advertiser is one that contributes to a safer, more diverse and inclusive digital ecosystem – by making intentional decisions about media investments and considering relevancy when choosing the audience they wish to target.

What About Conscious Advertising on Social Platforms?

According to research we conducted last year, people are looking for more positive content online. 80% of consumers come to platforms like YouTube to improve their mood.1 On top of that, they want brands to serve them ads that both boost and align with their mood.2 

The mood-shifting allure of social platforms has a lot to do with the people responsible for the content – the creators. Conscious advertising, therefore, requires decisions about them. 58% of consumers would stop watching a YouTube channel if they discovered the creator supported causes they don’t agree with.1

Over half of consumers stated they would have a negative opinion of brands who run their ads on content made by creators whose social values they disagree with. It’s up to brands, then, to avoid creators whose content reflects values their target consumers can’t get on board with. 

It’s tricky though. Social media platforms allow users to post whatever they want. Platforms like YouTube remove universally agreed upon bad actors and content, but the rest is up to brands. 

Brands employ brand safety tools to avoid content which is universally agreed upon to be inappropriate, and brand suitability to ensure their ads run in content that aligned with their unique brand image. 

Conscious advertising requires brands to go one step further. It demands that they tap into their core values and ladder their monetization decisions to those values. Even if consumers disagree, the brand can remain confident in their position because the values are consciously written into their DNA. 

When brands run their ads on content, they monetize it. That monetization reflects a decision by them, and it reflects on what they stand for. And consumers, it seems, are paying attention.


1: Consumer Sentiment and Conscious Advertising, 2021, n1000, US 18-65

2: Content Consumption and Consumer Sentiment Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic, 2020, n1000, US 18-65