UM’s Arielle Garcia: Privacy must become a business imperative

Arielle Garcia
Arielle Garcia

Her new role as the media giant’s first chief privacy officer covers the vast scope of a consumer’s personal preference to a world of local, national and global compliance regulations.

As privacy regulations and government oversight increases, global media agency UM took the initiative to create the position of chief privacy officer. And who better to fill that role than agency stalwart Arielle Garcia, who was most recently VP of business operations and compliance for UM’s ExxonMobil and Accenture accounts.

UM CEO Lynn Lewis has emphasized driving a “culture of compliance” at the agency and on behalf of clients, partners and the industry at large. One big reason why Garcia stepped into this new role is that over her seven-plus years at UM, she has been on board for early discussions and ongoing policy-making for this increasingly important issue.

With some regulations even becoming obtrusive to deal with, it would be wrong to assume that consumers just click-through all those GDPR and CCPA disclaimers, said Garcia. “I would say that the emergence of these laws in and of itself is some indication of the continued importance of the use of personal data to society,” she said.

A graduate of Fordham University School of Law, Garcia will also spearhead UM parent group IPG Mediabrands’ new privacy task force and continue to handle compliance for ExxonMobil.

Campaign US interviewed Garcia about the new job and what privacy means in today’s social and online marketplace.

What are the key privacy issues that media agencies need to address?

As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve domestically and internationally, media agencies need to maintain a deep understanding of the digital ecosystem, evolution in consumer sentiment and emerging focus areas for lawmakers and civil society.

In the same way that clients trust their media agency partners to act as responsible stewards of media investment, there is now a new dimension of that responsibility and stewardship with regard to data. Clients rely on their agencies to understand how data is collected, used and shared across the ecosystem. This responsibility to drive ethical data collection and use across the ecosystem is foundational to our client service.

Further, as strategic partners to our clients, we deliver media recommendations and solutions tailored to their needs. The way that our clients approach privacy adds a new dimension to the factors we consider in developing these tailored recommendations.

What issue is most concerning to clients? And then to consumers?

I’d like to answer this in reverse, as it’s the consumer sentiment that drives the obligations and imperatives of the businesses or brands that serve them.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of how their data is collected and used. As a result, consumers increasingly expect companies to provide them with transparency about the use of their data, as well as choice over how their data is used and, most importantly, how and with whom it is shared.

To that end, consumers have indicated continued willingness to share their data with the brands they trust, so maintaining that trust is critical to brands. Further, consumers expect to derive value from the data that they share – for example, via personalized offers from the brands they’ve chosen to engage with.

As a result, for our clients, building and maintaining consumer trust is central to delivering effective data-driven marketing. Because with trust comes responsibility, clients need to be confident that the data they’re collecting from consumers is used appropriately and protected rigorously by the partners they share it with in the ecosystem.

Finally, our clients are navigating new compliance obligations that differ across countries and states and many of which contain some degree of ambiguity. Ultimately, clients want to understand that their interpretation, position and approach is reasonable.

Your CEO speaks of the culture of compliance at the agency. We’ve had GDPR and CCPA, but I wonder how deeply most consumers care to consider these privacy laws. What are your thoughts?

Consumers are and will continue to be attentive to issues concerning their privacy, and increasingly consider how their data is collected, used and shared by companies and brands.

These laws serve the purpose of translating consumer norms and expectations into rights for people and obligations for businesses, so I would say that the emergence of these laws in and of itself is some indication of the continued importance of the use of personal data to society.

What, specifically, do you think about the opposing forces of social media and the privacy movement? How do brands open up dialogue with consumers, protect their public forums and the people who post on them during these politically volatile times?

I don’t see social media and privacy as mutually exclusive phenomena. Indeed, the interplay of social media and privacy underscores the importance of the core concepts of transparency, choice and responsibility. People use social media because they derive value from it. They expect that the information they share with companies and brands via their use of social media is treated with respect. They want to know how their data is being used without needing to click on nested links to read legalese. People want to have the right to say, “No, I don’t want you to share my data with this third party that I don’t know.”

To that end, brands should engage authentically with people on social media and beyond. They should clearly explain to consumers in their own brand voice how their information is used, with whom it is shared and what value consumers receive in exchange. Brands should also demand that the social media platforms they use to reach their consumers uphold these standards of responsibility, and that the platforms protect and respect their users with the same rigor.

What do brands need to address as we wind down 2020? What further protections do you think your position will be most focused on in 2021?

Many brands have to date needed to prioritize their focus on privacy from a compliance perspective. The heightened attention to societal impacts of advertising will likely catalyze the shift in mindset for brands to look beyond compliance to consider how their use of data is responsible, ethical, fair and beneficial from the consumer’s perspective.

This is where it becomes incredibly important for marketers and media clients to engage in dialogue internally and with their agencies about the topic of privacy – a shift from the traditional view of privacy as predominantly a legal issue, to a business imperative that is a core consideration in developing data strategy, consumer experience, brand trust and loyalty.

This will also lead to an increased emphasis on threading these principles through the value chain as brands look to drive responsible use of data by their media and ad tech partners.

Privacy is an incredibly dynamic space. Domestically, several states are working to enact their own laws, and we can expect to see a continued push for federal legislation. Internationally, we can expect to see similar trends and developments.

Looking ahead to 2021, we can expect public sentiment to continue to evolve, along with the regulatory environment. We look forward to continuing to engage in the industry dialogue, collaborating with our partners and clients to develop effective, responsible marketing and advertising that delivers value to the communities that brands serve.

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