As society becomes more aware of the negative impact of advertising practices, there also seems to be a growing demand for more ethical advertising. But what exactly is ethical advertising, and how does it differ from traditional advertising? In our minds, ethical advertising is advertising based on personal experience instead of third-party data. How does that sound to you? Pretty good, right? Let’s get into the nitty gritty of it…

At its core, ethical advertising is honest, transparent, and respects the rights of consumers. It’s advertising that’s based on promoting the value and benefits of something, [anything really] without resorting to misleading or deceptive tactics, including the sourcing and repurposing of third-party data.

One of the key differences between ethical advertising and traditional advertising is the focus on building trust with consumers. In traditional advertising, the goal is usually to create an emotional response or manipulate the audience into making a purchase or completing a ‘goal’. In ethical advertising, the goal is to build a relationship with the consumer based on trust and mutual respect.

Ethical advertising also typically holds a commitment to social responsibility. Advertisers who practice ethical advertising consider the impact of their advertising on society as a whole, rather than just on their bottom line. They are mindful of the potential negative consequences, or externalities,* of their advertising and strive to minimize harm.

Another key aspect of ethical advertising is the use of truthful and accurate information. Ethical advertisers avoid making exaggerated claims or using false or misleading information to promote their products or services. Instead, they focus on providing consumers with clear and accurate information that allows them to make informed decisions. This includes the overuse of exclamations or salesy tactics we might see with a ‘token’ car dealer or those junk mail pieces we get with ‘Everything Must Go! Deep Discounts!’ etc.

One way that ethical advertising differs from traditional advertising is in its approach to targeting. In traditional advertising, advertisers often use demographic data and other targeting techniques including third-party data that’s scraped from sites and aggregated by data aggregators to reach specific groups of consumers. While this can be effective, it can also lead to discrimination and other unethical practices.

In ethical advertising, targeting is based on understanding the needs and desires of individual consumers, rather than their more general demographic characteristics. This requires a more personalized approach to advertising, which can be more time-consuming and expensive than traditional advertising methods but doesn’t necessarily mean it will be.¬†However, it also leads to more effective advertising campaigns that are better able to connect with consumers on a deeper level.

Through our ethical arm, reCreative Good, we are currently working toward a hypothesis that you don’t need to spend more in order to get the same return on an ethically minded advertising campaign. We look forward to sharing that data with you once we’ve completed the project.

Finally, ethical advertising is also characterized by a commitment to transparency and accountability. Advertisers who practice ethical advertising are open and honest about their advertising practices, often providing insights on their own website or through the contracts they provide to their clients, and are willing to be held accountable for any mistakes or missteps.

This includes being transparent about how consumer data is collected and used, as well as being willing to address any concerns or complaints that consumers may have. Ethical advertisers also strive to be as transparent as possible about their social and environmental impact, and work to minimize any negative effects that their advertising may have on society as a whole, as well as a hyper focus on their local market.

In conclusion, ethical advertising is a commitment to honesty, transparency, and social responsibility. It differs from traditional advertising in its focus on building trust with consumers, its personalized approach to targeting, and its commitment to transparency and accountability.

At, we believe that ethical advertising is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business. By building relationships with consumers based on trust and mutual respect, we are able to create more loyal and engaged customers who are more likely to recommend our products and services to others. Just ask any of the clients on our portfolio page.

We are committed to practicing ethical advertising in everything we do, and we encourage others in the industry to do the same. Together, we can create a more ethical and responsible advertising industry that benefits both consumers and businesses alike.


*You can learn more about externalities and potential harms through the Center for Humane Technology’s Foundations course

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