OPINION: They May Be Losing Money, But The Guardian’s Decision To Ban Gambling Ads Is A Wealthy Move

OPINION: They May Be Losing Money, But The Guardian’s Decision To Ban Gambling Ads Is A Wealthy Move

When I first read about The Guardian banning gambling ads my first instinct was “that’s a wealthy decision,” which was somewhat ironic given the story was basically about how they will be losing a sh*t ton of money. 

Whilst the words said that this will cost them millions of dollars, it nonetheless felt like a power move, marking a shift in how brands do business.

Now before I go into why, I feel it necessary to at least give some sort of nod to the armchair libertarians who will argue that this is an infringement of their right to do things that are bad for them. 

The Guardian is not a state. The Guardian is a brand. They receive their money from advertisers, readers, corporations and donors (some of which are government entities). If I was going to write an article about how much state control a government should have I’d a) fall into an existential crisis that I won’t come out of before lunch b) wouldn’t be writing for B&T –we focus on brands. 

There is no government ban of gambling ads, this is a brand decision. 

So let’s look at The Guardian’s brand. Most of us, especially if you’re a pom like me, will have a fairly good understanding of The Guardian brand, mainly as left-leaning and somewhat middle class. 

They define their brand as “a global news organisation that delivers fearless, investigative journalism – giving a voice to the powerless and holding power to account”. They say their values are: “honesty, integrity, courage, fairness, and a sense of duty to the reader”. 

That’s their values. Now I’m not going to comment on what the values actually are, because that’s not my place. But the key to building brand trust is to be in alignment with your own values. 

The Guardian says they have a ‘duty’ to the reader, and given (in The Guardian’s words) “more than 70 per cent of male gamblers aged 18 to 35 are at risk of harm, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies” it makes sense that they would move to ban gambling ads. 

If their values were freedom, free-speech and zero-censorship (equally noble), then the move would not be in alignment with their values. 

Now the reason this is a powerful move, and may change how brands do business, is because they are turning down money for the sake of their values.

This is a huge shift from a company having values to actually being based on values. As Mark Ritson said in his recent LinkedIn post on the matter – “the purpose of purpose is purpose, not profit. And The Guardian is making the move anyway””. 

If you manage to locate a company’s brand values you’ll probably find things that talk about equality and community and fairness, because (let’s be honest) – ‘earning money at any cost’ doesn’t sound great, especially in a world where the ethical Gen-Z’s are growing in power. 

But if you look at their balance sheet, and how they make and spend their money is out of alignment with the values in their values page, then we have a problem. 

It can be disastrous for brands – remember when the Gender Pay Gap Bot started Tweeting A  brand’s International Women’s Day marketing alongside their actual pay gaps? Not a good look. 

Research shows that 62 per cent  of consumers are attracted to companies that exhibit ethical values and authenticity.

This doesn’t mean you have to be “woke” or by the book to be a successful brand – look at Joe Rogan and Elon Musk for God’s sake – but you do need to make profit in alignment with your values to be trusted and respected by your customers. 

Believe what you want, be controversial – just be brazen about it.

If you had a friend that said that eating meat was murder and always wrong, but then accepted $100 to eat a burger, you wouldn’t respect them would you? It’s no different for brands. 

In making this move, The Guardian is showing themselves to be a truly value-based brand. 


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