The Guardian and Ipsos MORI found that when it comes to purpose advertising, the medium is the message.
There’s an ever growing demand that businesses and brands behave more responsibly. The response to that in our industry is purpose advertising. But is there any evidence to suggest context matters in purpose advertising campaigns? Do the values of a media platform transfer to the advertiser? In short, does media matter in purpose advertising? That’s what the Guardian – a purposeful media company – wanted to find out.
The Guardian partnered with Ipsos MORI who ran a series of consumer and customer interviews, which was quantified with a national representative (AUS, US and UK) survey to over 3000 people (a number of whom were Guardian readers). We also ran some ad testing, comparing different purpose and non-purpose adverts in different media contexts.
The main findings included:
- When we asked our panellists to define ‘purpose’ there were five key attributes that stood out, each of which were given roughly equal weighting: progressive (39 per cent), trustworthy (38 per cent), impactful (36 per cent), authentic (35 per cent), empowering (34 per cent).
- Purpose is now an expectation in media – 72 per cent of people think media businesses should act in a purposeful way too. Perhaps unsurprising in a world where unregulated social platforms have shifted entire societies away from the open terrain of genuine debate and argument.
- When asked to apply our purpose attributes to different media – newsbrands over indexed compared to social media. And from the qualitative research, we found that news is seen as credible and authentic, a view that is shared with our advertising partners. One of them said: “Sometimes there is a hesitation to advertise with news media sites … Yet, brand trust is more likely to increase when brands are surrounded with more objective, ‘must-know’ breaking news stories.”
- Authenticity matters in purpose advertising. And that includes where you spend your media budget. So if brands are going to think about their businesses having an impact on the world, partnering with ‘good media’ is an important part of that. We are already seeing brands take action with global cosmetics brand Lush turning its back on Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok and Snapchat until they provide a safer environment for its users. Consumers are increasingly aware that a brand’s purpose is measured through the whole supply chain.
- Media placement does matter. The Guardian tested 180 different combinations of digital adverts, brands and media platforms to assess the relative importance of each in driving the perception of the advertised purpose brand. It found that where you place your ad has a bigger impact on perception than the ad itself. Media plays a hugely important role as a delivery mechanism for brand purpose, accounting for 58 per cent of the uplift compared to 14 per cent advert and 28 per cent advertiser. In other words, when it comes to purpose advertising, the media is the message
- Even brands without a purpose were seen as more purposeful. It saw an uplift of 28 per cent and 21 per cent in purpose statements on brand and promotional ads, respectively when placed on the Guardian – that’s just how powerful the context is and how impactful the Guardian masthead can be.
- There are high levels of awareness of the Guardian’s purpose. Some 29% of people would view a brand as purposeful if it advertises on the Guardian.
- The Guardian’s audience is more likely to care about and be receptive to purpose brands. For example, Guardian readers are twice as likely to understand what B-Corp certification means. They’re 31 per cent more likely to buy a brand if it was purposeful.
What does that mean for brands?
As businesses and brands think about their impact in the world, where they spend their media money has to be part of that consideration. Not least because it’s part of their supply chain. But also people notice. Purpose advertising is not a trend, it’s a must have.
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