Code of ethics in digital marketing communications

Over the recent years, businesses increasingly focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and quite rightly so. In the digital age, savvy consumers expect companies to act ethically, fair, honest and decent. But CSR goes beyond fair pricing, paying your staff and caring for the environment. Despite the non-existence of a code of ethics in digital marketing communications, CSR does play a part in how we communicate with our audience and how we manage our immediate stakeholders of which our competitors play a vital role.

code of ethics

Ethical behaviour in digital marketing

The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines regulation in marketing communications as a blend of two main approaches. The first is clear defined by legislation whereby business obey the legal boundaries. The second approach is somewhat more blurry and mostly based on voluntary agreements within industries or between companies. Whilst organisations like the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) monitors the way we communicate on traditional online and offline channels, it becomes much more complex in paid search and brand bidding.

Keep PPC ethical

Brand bidding unfortunately sparks ongoing debate. Whilst allowed in the UK as long the brand name is not actually used in the ad copy, it can be somewhat considered non-ethical. The purpose of bidding on your competitor brand keywords is to expose your brand to a new audience who otherwise might not have considered your business in the first place. This, while limited successful, can bring in some revenue or leads. But why should I keep PPC ethical if other competitors do it as well? That’s a good question! We believe that a competitive market is healthy and the only stakeholder who benefits from intense competition is the consumer. However, the ethical approach does also include to achieve this competitive edge without bidding on brand keywords. It feels almost like cheating! The real art of PPC is to outplay your competitor by constantly finding new keyword, optimise your account and bring down your costs while slotting in your ads on stable positions.

Approach of non-ethical behaviour

If you realise that a competitor is bidding on your brand, quite often a email or telephone conversation suffices to settle the brand bidding and come up with a “gentleman” agreement. We’ve done this many times and had success in 9 out of 10 times. There will always be sneaky advertisers who will try everything to get more exposure. There is a simple trick to overcome this.

Automated rules for brand-bidding

Google Adwords allows the set up of automated rules where the positioning is adjusted as soon as the position of your brand drops from first position to 1.1. Furthermore, settings allow that an email notification is sent out so you keep control when a competitors sneaks onto your brand keywords.