Browse recent interviews with some of the most influential marketers and you’ll see delicately worded commitments to making socially responsible investments in media.

Indeed, for many years — with a few notable exceptions — marketers paid lip service to doing their bit. But over the past year, this has changed. Marketers are increasingly aware that what they buy has an impact on society.

Explanations for this epiphany range from the cynical (good PR) to the altruistic (good for society). The reality is probably somewhere in between. Regardless, one thing is for certain: marketers better get used to making tough choices on who they do and don’t decide to buy ads from. It’s a concern that was brought into sharp focus around yesterday’s U.S. presidential inauguration.

“Clients are taking a mixed approach to the inauguration,” said Ben Hovaness, managing direct for marketplace intelligence and innovation at Omnicom Media Group. “Some clients tend to be more conservative and cautious and so will go dark for these periods whereas others are more willing to keep their media running.”

Many of those spending decisions were based not only on how well social networks could keep ads away from problematic content, but also on whether they gave marketers a clearer line of sight on what content was suitable and ethical. Part of this process looks at the prevalence of violating content on social networks, which is distinct from the number of takedown requests from users.

“Put another way, it’s like looking at the quantity of arrests that police make and the crime rate,” said Hovaness. “The two don’t necessarily correlate and if you’re picking an area to live then you’re going to be more concerned about how much crime is happening there than the number of arrests police make. It’s how we help clients think through ethical consequences of media responsibility.”

American consumers are divided politically and ideologically more than ever before. While these values have always split American society, it’s only recently that embracing those of the other side is likely to cause lasting damage. This divide extends to the media channels people follow, from the opinion news channels they watch to the online groups they’re part of. And it’s made the challenge of trying to market products and services to people all the harder.

“Clients are realizing the content that they’re funding matters as it can have an adverse impact on society that hurts customers, which subsequently hurts business,” said Joshua Lowcock, global brand safety officer at Universal McCann.

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