Ethics in PPC Advertising
Hey y’all! Thanks so much, Jyll for having me here at PPC Zone and Sarah for the presentation!
I’m Doug Thomas. My pronouns are he and him. I’ve been in the digital marketing world for 13 years, doing almost everything under the digital sun, including search, social, and video advertising.
Now, I’m the lead strategist at Magniventris, an ethical digital marketing company that helps organizations make their digital marketing more inclusive, accessible, safe, ethical and effective.
Today, I’m super-excited to show y’all some ways to make your PPC Advertising more ethical. We’re gonna go over one thing from each of the three different ways that ethics comes up in PPC advertising: inclusion, accessibility, and privacy.
And while we do that, I want y’all to think about – and if you’re comfortable, share in chat — what ethical issues keep you up at night.
Inclusivity is maybe the first step to making our ads ethical. It’s ultimately an important goal: we want to make sure all of our clients’ customers feel like they’re welcome to buy the thing we’re advertising.
This isn’t just a moral imperative – it’s part of over three decades of law for industries like the financial world.
In 1989, the regulations for Fair Housing Advertising were published, providing FHA lenders with guidance on how to create advertising that doesn’t exclude people. Among advice around media placements, translation, and copy, the regulations have a section about what they call “Selective Use of Human Models.”
This section instructs that when you’re using stock photos, you have to actually represent the people that are in your audience. This seems simple, but there are thousands of times when you’ve seen this just not happen.
As an example, let’s look at one of the most successful DTC companies – Shein. If you look for a dress, you see literally just one model, a thin white woman. Their regular sizing goes from size 4 to size 12. Customers might wonder: how do these clothes fit on different bodies?
If Shein provided even just one other model, showing how the dress fits on a different body type, their sales would increase, their returns would decrease, and overall the retailer’s profitability would be even higher.
This is just one example of how someone might use inclusivity to make their ads more effective, but I think it’s the most obvious. For every business, showing your audience how your product helps the real them will always be more effective than showing someone who’s only kind of like them.
But it’s not enough to just look like you help people like them. July is Disability Pride Month, bringing awareness and visibility to the disability community. The next step to making your PPC advertising more ethical is supporting folks who might use the web differently than the majority of users.
One definition of “disability” is key to how we can approach accessibility. Microsoft’s Inclusive Toolkit defines disability not as a personal health condition, but a mismatch between expected and actual human interactions.
Using this definition, we can think of accessibility as not an attempt to design for some unknowable edge case, but as improving the usability of the site for everyone.
And usability is no more important than on the most important part of a lead-generating landing page: the form.
So let’s look at a form I recently redesigned, from a Wix site. This form has some great points for accessibility, notably the size of the inputs and the clearly-delineated input areas. But there’s two big issues we can solve.
The first issue is the basic layout: two columns, then one. This creates a moment of hesitation for the user, because the zig-zag eye motion adds to the cognitive load required to complete the form.
The next issue is easily seen in the first two fields. There are no labels! They only use placeholders. This creates a few problems.
On longer forms, this can make people lose their place. In addition, labels act as click targets, increasing the area where people can click to activate the field. And for people who use screen readers, using just placeholders can affect how the screen reader reads the form.
So here’s the redesigned form. One column, with labels.
By focusing on the usability of your landing pages, you’ll increase the accessibility for all your customers.
Now, representing your customers and doing the work to support their needs is great. But there’s one final thing to do to help your PPC campaigns be more ethical. Actually informing our clients’ customers’ of how we use their data is a vastly under-represented way to be ethical about our PPC advertising.
What’s funny is that there’s a legal requirement against this – GDPR’s Article 12 requires that data controllers provide information about data processing “in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language”
Finally, the WordPress template provides sections for other data partners. Your hosting company logs personal information, your web analytics collects personal information, and if you’re using an email service to collect newsletter signups, you’re sending then personal information. Your customers deserve to know specifically who else gets their data.
Privacy policies communicate how advertising actually works to the public. We as advertisers have to help our clients and their customers protect their data online.
So that’s a quick overview of ethical considerations in PPC.
Promote inclusivity by using models that reflect all of your audience.
Focus on usability for all of your users to help increase accessibility.
I hope y’all have gotten out of the time we’ve have together the same feeling that I have about doing marketing ethically: that every thing that makes our marketing more ethical also makes it more effective.
Thanks for having me, and stay tuned for Armina.