White Space Opportunities In Advertising ESG & Sustainable Investing Products

Display Ads
January 1, 2021
Financial Services

Key Takeaways

Paid Channel Focus Allocation — Minimal ESG Advertising: On average, the majority of brands in the competitive set spent less than 2% of their advertising budget on ESG investing in 2020. This presents a whitespace opportunity for brands to spread awareness about their ESG and sustainable investing products, as there is a lack of competition in the advertising space. 

Paid Channel Focus Allocation — Display Video & Twitter: Brands in the competitive set mainly focused on Display Video and Twitter ads for ESG advertising. BlackRock dominated the Display Video channel where they focused on educating around their sustainable ETFs. BlackRock also created 4x as many Twitter ads compared to their other ad channels of focus. Minimal investment was made by the competitive set In Facebook and Display ads which present an area of opportunity to connect with the target audience in a less crowded space.

Content & Messaging — Education & Industry Experts: All 3 competitors (BlackRock, Calvert and Fidelity) focus on education around sustainable investing through their advertisements. Blackrock ran Twitter ads featuring industry experts who discussed the intersection of sustainability and finance, and also provided various resources for consumers to learn more about ESG investing. The same can be said for Calvert, who ran Twitter ads that directed consumers to an Advisor Resource Center for responsible investing education. Lastly, Fidelity featured a Water Sustainability Fund Portfolio Manager in their display advertising campaign to demonstrate how Fidelity invests in companies that help combat the global water crisis.

Paid Search Tactic — Leverage ESG & Sustainable Keywords: Brands in the competitive set are using a combination of ESG-specific and sustainable investing keywords to capture search traffic. Brands stress differing benefits in their ad copy, such as resilience to volatility, helping to make an impact, and traditional items such as 24/7 support, and no account or transaction fees. This allows companies to capture the attention of audiences who may not have heard of their brand, but are already a target audience based on their product-preferences (i.e. sustainable investing).

BlackRock has spent more than all other competitors combined over the past year (Jan. ‘20 - Jan. ‘21) on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investment advertising.

BlackRock spent $297K on ESG ads in 2020.

Total ad spend
Note: Ad spend does not include Paid Search as it is not available on a creative-specific level.

On average (excluding Calvert), the competitive set is spending less than 2% of their total ad spend on ESG advertisements.

Calvert spends 100% of its budget on ESG ads.

Total ad ESG Spend

For ESG ads, BlackRock focuses on Display Video, while Calvert allocated 100% of their advertising budget towards Twitter ads. 

Fidelity focused 100% of their spend on Display.


BlackRock’s ESG Display Video ads advertised their sustainable ETFs and contained future-oriented messaging such as “will mother nature power the future of energy?”

Post #1, Post #2

BlackRock’s Facebook ads used a combination of sustainable ETF carousel ads and videos featuring the Head of iShares Sustainable ETFs to educate consumers.

Tactics Used:

  • Landing page shows all of the products in their ESG portfolio (i.e: ESGU, ESGD stocks)
  • On the landing page, viewers are also directed to a sustainable investing resource page that educates consumers about ESG.
  • The video brings in their head of sustainable ETFs to talk about the importance of ESG (i.e. expert advice)
Post #1, Post #2

When looking at the number of ESG creatives, BlackRock created 4X more ads on Twitter compared to other channels.

Number of ESG Ads

BlackRock’s Twitter ads focused on education through the promotion of resources for consumers to learn more about ESG investing.

Tactics used: providing resources & educating their consumers (becoming a resource hub)

Twitter Ads
Post #1, Post #2, Post #3

BlackRock continued to educate on Twitter through the use of videos featuring industry experts who discussed the intersection of sustainability and finance.

Tactics used: short-form videos (under 2 minutes) of experts explaining differing aspects of sustainable investing

Blackrock Twitter Ads
Post #1, Post #2, Post#3

BlackRock also used Twitter ads to promote their podcast (The Bid) episodes that focused on sustainability.

The Bid
Post #1, Post #2

BlackRock’s paid search ads used both ESG and sustainable-specific keywords.

Paid Search

Calvert focused their ads on providing resources on responsible investing.

Post, Click to view LandingPage

Calvert’s Paid Search ad focused on their research capabilities and targeted competitor keywords.

Calvert Paid search

Fidelity’s ESG ads directed consumers to a video featuring a Water Sustainability Fund Portfolio Manager who spoke about the current clean water crisis.

Click to view landing page.

Fidelity’s Paid Search ads focused on their benefits, such as 24/7 support, no account fees, and no transaction fees.

Fidelity Keywords

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