The interview originally appeared in iMedia


Why is now the time for advertisers to show ethical leadership? 

I’m sick and tired of hearing talk about responsibility, morals or ethics. Come on, it should be common sense. Advertising is a powerful shaper of society and with our media consumption being split into more niche channels and online streaming, advertising is maybe our only omnipresent point of reference. If we fail in living up to this responsibility, we fail what we’ve been tasked to do: building long-lasting, trust-worthy brands. In this increasingly transparent media landscape, brands need to embrace a radically changing world order or be exposed as nothing but screaming quacks selling snake oil. And quacks get chased out of town.

What are the benefits?

If you show care towards people, people will care about you.It’s that simple. And it pays. There are lots of stats out these days about the value of purposeful brands. In Cannes this yearm Unilever’s Keith Weed (a keynote at ad:tech London) shared how their sustainable brands grow twice as fast and today represents half the revenue of the company.

What has the VW scandal showed us about the importance of ethics?

If you screw up you get punished, but unfortunately people (and investors) tend to have a short-term memory. I’m sure VW will get back on track and like we saw with Nike in the nineties with the labour scandals, it might be an opportunity to reinvent themselves and become stronger.

What is the relationship between ethics and digital and social media?

It’s cruel. Saying won’t cut it in the marketplace anymore, you have to live your values and make a real difference in people’s lives.

How do create an ethical marketing culture?

Looking at the brands that have succeeded it begins at the top with strong, value-led leadership.

What are the risks of poor ethical leadership?
VW, General Motors, BP. Do I need to say more?



© 2020 Thomas Kolster. All Rights Reserved.

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