Shared Values in the Digital Media Industry

By : Burr Purnell


There is a shift happening in the wider business community. Organizations are changing their focus from charitable giving to “Shared Values.” Shared values presents a relatively new way of thinking about how to think about corporate responsibility. Rather than writing a check to a non-profit, companies can address many of society’s social issues through their business by way of donating their products and services. Ruth Browne, President and CEO of Ronald McDonald House – NY, refers to this form of giving as “valuable service grants.”

Harvard Business Review writes that a shared values approach “reconnects company success with social progress.” There are examples of a shared values approach in other industry sectors. New Resource Bank, a certified B Corporation, is a for-profit corporation that is not only driven by profit but also by their mission. Such corporations meet high transparency, accountability, and good performance standards. Law firms and hospitals often provide services to people in need, on a small and large scale. According to their website, Hanson Bridgett LLP, was the first law firm in the nation to become a B-Corp. Ingrained in their culture is the belief that lawyers have a duty to improve the social fabric of our country. Adventis Health Howard Memorial hospital practices “equitable health care” ensuring that their local community has fair access to healthcare regardless of one’s health, insurance or financial status. I’d like to think that a supportive, focused approach of practicing kindness, and working for the good of society could tighten societal bonds.

In digital media, connecting a company’s success with social progress isn’t always as obvious of a leap. But it is not only possible, it’s happening today across many corners of our industry.

There is momentum, a shared force if you will, that’s making the shared value approach more mainstream. Recently, I was invited to convene with executives in the digital advertising community to create the Gun Safety Alliance. “GSA increases connections and coordination across supporters of the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement, finding ways to amplify each others’ work toward our goal of reducing gun deaths.” This effort has provided an early example that we can all build on.

Leveraging Digital Media Technology and Expertise

There is an old adage that I repeat often: “Give someone a fish, and they eat for a day. Teach someone to fish, and they eat for a lifetime.” From climate change to global conflict, to diversity and inclusion, our industry’s ability to support important causes and amplify messaging is unprecedented. Publishers are not the only members of our industry who can get important content to audiences on a global scale. In the US, the  Ad Council plays an important role in delivering time sensitive public service announcements to inspire action and change lives. From information on COVID to natural disasters, the Ad Council doesn’t just need our money, they need our technology and expertise. They need our world-class creative services, our media buying prowess, our targeting data and so much more. Sending in checks is important, and I’m not arguing that we stop writing checks, but service grants have the power to deliver tangible benefits to NPOs when it comes to amplifying critical, often lifesaving messages, at a moment’s notice.

Similarly, VidMob has found that we deliver more impact when we offer pro bono use of our creative data and expertise than if we simply wire cash to a non-profit. By working with a variety of NPOs, we are able to create messaging that performs above the industry average while also providing insights that our partners can use to build more effective ads in the future. What’s more, by gathering thousands of intelligent creative insights across all of the UNSDGs, our goal is to share statically significant, normalized data, for a positive impact on social issues, like gun safety, food insecurity, and gender equality.

Shared Values to Fit Every Business

There are numerous ways that companies in our industry can align their work with the needs of the world. Some companies in the digital space are starting to consider how to reduce their carbon footprint, others have integrated sustainability directly into their supply chain. Startups like Scope3 are collecting data specifically to share with companies that plan to buy and sell media based on carbon emissions. SeenThis nobly provides streaming technology that reduces carbon emissions for every ad that is shown. And since 2007, Google, one of the largest and most influential companies in the world, has been carbon neutral. We should all applaud the leadership that these companies are showing as each one of them bends the arc towards progress. Moreover, they prove that organizations can become more sustainable in ways that fit their business model.

For other companies, committing to a more diverse and inclusive world has become their North Star. Kargo has prioritized providing advertising technology for a diverse set of small publishers. They’ve also reimagined their holiday giving program. Rather than sending meaningless swag to clients, Kargo has created a gift guide that features Black-owned small businesses around the country, resulting in nearly $50,000 in sales for these businesses. Mirriad is another example of a company that is focused on diversity. The virtual product placement company chose to expand their media partnership base to include a wider variety of Black-owned and minority-owned sites to bring advertiser demand to these publishers.

Going Further

I’m an optimist and I choose to look through the lens of shared abundance and prosperity. Clearly, digital media is a powerful force. And, like it or not, our industry shapes the information that’s delivered to billions of people every day. Many of us have started to think about how it’s our responsibility to use that force for the betterment of the planet and humankind. Adobe, Atlassian, Canva, New Relic, SalesForce, and Twilio (plus 10,000+ more) have joined Pledge 1%, an organization that encourages companies to donate 1% of their staff time, product, profit, and/or equity to ANY charity of their choosing. Pledge 1% is a phenomenal organization and they have made a small dent, the good kind of dent, down a very long path towards a better future.

Let’s take that concept a step further and apply it to shared values in our industry. Rather than simply giving 1%, what if we pooled that 1% and created a massive industry-wide engine for good – delivering education, public service messaging, and more, all while donating our technology and expertise to those who need it most. I have no doubt that with this approach, our industry would drive unparalleled change for people and the planet.

Many of us are ready. Are you? Learn more about VidMob Gives.