Published 1 month ago.
About a 7 minute read.
Image: Nature Valley
Ad-tech platform Good-Loop is helping advertisers connect with the public and
overcome people’s desire to block ads by combining consumer engagement with
charitable brand donations.
2023 saw a further wave of brands get behind the anti-Black Friday
buoyed by a growing group of people concerned about the environmental
implications of consumerism. Joining the likes of REI and Patagonia in
the traditional day of discounted sales were beauty brand Lush, sustainable
and UK electrical retailer Curry’s — which, instead of selling as many
TVs and stereo systems as possible, used Black Friday to offer deals on home
appliances that reduce energy usage.
Yes, people are becoming more worried about what overconsumption means for the
planet — but also about the impact of flash sales and
marketing on people’s mental health. As the Money and Mental Health Policy
out, events such as Black Friday can “place great stress on people’s shopping
experience. Periods of poor mental health can in some cases be accompanied by
more impulsive decision making, or anxiety and worry about the future.” In
selling us stuff we don’t really
reinforcing a fear of missing out and, in some cases, using aggressive tactics
to boost sales, the advertising industry has rightly come under
There have been pockets of progress in making sure that the advertising we do
see is at least not fuelling sales of the most environmentally damaging
industries. In France, for example, legislation has been
banning the advertising of energy products related to fossil fuels; and
Sydney, Australia has banned fossil fuel-related
across its properties and events.
And then there’s the environmental impact of online
in particular. According to Purpose
Disruptors, it is
responsible for around 28 percent of the average consumer’s carbon footprint.
finds that online advertising “consumes vast amounts of energy” — contributing
up to 20 percent of the total internet infrastructure’s consumption.
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But what if advertising could be good? After all, the industry is one of the
most influential drivers in changing the way we buy, use and dispose of
Well, Amy Williams believes she
has hit on an idea that will transform how we consume adverts online. She is
co-founder of Good-Loop — an ethical ad agency that
“exists to make advertising a positive force in the world,” says Williams, who
describes herself as an “accidental sustainability nerd” whose previous career
was the “antithesis of sustainability.”
“I had a moment where I reflected on what I was doing, and it didn’t feel
important enough,” she tells Sustainable Brands®. “Selling more fabric
conditioner is not important enough. I remember thinking, ‘I either quit and
retrain to become a lawyer or a doctor, or I can stay where I am and use this
industry to do good and turn the tanker in the right direction.’”
Excited by what the ad industry is capable of (“Thanks to its
one-pack-one-vaccine program with
UNICEF, Pampers has wiped
out neonatal tetanus in multiple countries”), she chose the latter: “I don’t
think big corporates are going to save the world; they’re going to make money
and they’re going to do it any way they can. But it’s my job to show them how
they can make money by doing good.”
The idea for Good-Loop was born out of a frustration with ad-blocking (“the
biggest boycott in human history”). A third of all internet users block ads from
their user experience — and that’s bad news for brands. They don’t want to annoy
online consumers; but they do want to be seen and heard, to build trust and
foster connection. “Everything is so focused on clicks and eyeballs, and
achieving the lowest possible price for the highest number of impressions. All
of the incentives are misaligned to create a really unpleasant advertising
experience,” Williams says.
Brands that use Good-Loop as their agency can combine getting those eyeballs and
engagement with making a charitable donation. If online users choose to engage
with a brand, they unlock a free donation funded by the brand. To give an
example: Healthy snack giant Nature Valley’s
purpose is all about getting people out into
nature; and it has a big platform
focused on on protecting and preserving national parks. The company worked with
Good-Loop to create a bespoke ad experience whereby users who don’t press the
‘skip ad’ button on the video ad help to fund the brand’s national park
“Last year, the brand planted over 66,000 trees in US National parks using the
money that’s generated every time someone doesn’t skip the ad,” Williams
explains. “It’s a little value exchange — which says, ‘if you give some
attention to this ad, we’ll give a donation.’”
The company also makes sure brand ads are as sustainable as possible (by
compressing font files or reducing animation libraries, for example, so they use
as little energy as possible) before distributing them across the web and social
platforms. It also offers a service to measure the carbon impact of digital
with the option to buy offsets and take action to reduce it.
“We also work with our customers to fund climate journalism — because wherever
your ads appear, you are funding that journalism. That’s a big part of the
responsibility of advertisers.”
Good-Loop was also born out of Williams’ experience working with brands that
were increasingly investing in social purpose. Among her clients, Unilever
brand Dove’s “Real Beauty”
campaign was gaining
traction with customers, and yet it was completely disconnected from the media
landscape. She could see an opportunity, but it would take a few more years for
Williams to realise the potential of her idea.
She quit her job in Ad Agency Land, and enrolled herself on a female-only
entrepreneurship course in South America. It was there, on the beaches of
Val Paso, Chile, that her ideas for Good-Loop started to formulate. On her
return home to the UK, she met Daniel
Appel — a Scot who was in the
process of building a white-label advertising technology — in an online forum;
and they decided to build their new business idea together.
“That was in October. By Christmas, we had investment and I pitched the idea for
Good-Loop to my old client at Unilever; and we were put into their brilliant
little incubator, called the Unilever
Williams says. “As soon as we got Unilever, I went straight to The Drum — we got front-page coverage, the wheels started
rolling and we gained momentum really quickly.”
Williams puts her success down to leveraging the storytelling and the inspiring
aspect of using big brands to do good. Seven years after launch, Good-Loop has
raised more than £8 million for charities around the world and measured and
offset the carbon emissions from over two billion ads: “We’ve worked with 80
percent of the world’s top 100 brands; and I'm proud to say we’re the first
ad-tech company in the world to be B Corp-certified.”
As she ponders what she has achieved so far, Williams admits she never imagined
Good-Loop having this much impact.
“It’s not recognizable to the business I planned on those beaches in Chile; but
the fundamental idea of harnessing the power, scope and influence of the world’s
biggest brands hasn’t changed.”
Other than “eating an elephant in chunks and never looking too far ahead,” does
she have any advice for people starting up purpose-led businesses?
“Don’t be embarrassed about making good profit margins. I think for a lot of
social businesses, there’s an expectation that they survive on crumbs because
the mission is so big and worthy that all the money should go there. But running
a business on tiny margins is unsustainable; and if you really want to make
change, you have to build a sustainable business first and then worry about
Published Jan 2, 2024 8am EST / 5am PST / 1pm GMT / 2pm CET
Tom is founder of storytelling strategy firm Narrative Matters — which helps organizations develop content that truly engages audiences around issues of global social, environmental and economic importance. He also provides strategic editorial insight and support to help organisations – from large corporates, to NGOs – build content strategies that focus on editorial that is accessible, shareable, intelligent and conversation-driving.