WFA issues data transparency manifesto supported by Unilever, Mars and Diageo

Loerke: 'It's fundamental that brands put people and customers first in this area'
Loerke: 'It's fundamental that brands put people and customers first in this area'

The World Federation of Advertisers has called on brands to commit to a data ecosystem that properly respects consumer choices and their right to control their own data.

In a manifesto, the WFA calls for brands in all markets around the world to go beyond the legal steps required by GDPR, and recalibrate their approach to data more fundamentally across their companies.

It asks brands to commit to action in four key areas: 

  1. create strong data governance;
  2. minimise data collection;
  3. provide consumers with real control and choice over how their data is used;
  4. and take control of the data supply chain.

The aim is not to create a set of rules or regulations that will be outdated as soon as new tech is rolled out, but to form a set of guidelines that speaks to the spirit of the law, Stephan Loerke, WFA chief executive, told Campaign

"It's a guide for sustainable and successful brand growth in the future. It's fundamental that brands put people and customers first in this area to regain and rebuild trust," Loerke said.

There have been indicators that brands are losing the trust and interest of their consumers, he continued. 

"This manifesto isn't the work of three weeks. It's been in the works for months, pre-dating the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal. The indicators, including the rise of ad-blocking, were showing us that people were not comfortable with the way their data was being collected and used," Loerke explained. "We felt there was a need to recalibrate". 

Edelman's Trust Barometer has found that consumers are looking to brands to help safeguard their privacy, he continued, "This manifesto is recognition that a great digital experience is not just about free, fast-loading content and an unintrusive ad experience. Increasingly, it’s about people feeling that they have control over their personal information."

This is why the measures recommended in the manifesto go beyond the GDPR in key areas such as supply-chain management and data governance. But the ultimate goal is to create an online advertising industry that is built on more trust, control and respect for people’s data.

"Just as 2017 was the year of media transparency, 2018 is the year of data transparency. Just look at the recent outcry over Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. GDPR is going to flip control back into the hands of consumers and hold brands accountable in a way they've never been before," David Wheldon, president of the WFA and chief marketing officer of the Royal Bank of Scotland, said. 

"The marketing community needs to go back to thinking first and foremost about the people behind the data, their expectations and their rights."

Advisory board

The WFA is also creating an advisory board that will look to turn this vision into concrete action. The board will be led by Jamie Barnard, Unilever’s general counsel – global marketing, media and ecommerce. Barnard will work with the WFA as well as a cross-functional team of experts from companies including Diageo, Disney, Just Eat, Mars, Pernod Ricard and Shell.

"When it comes to trust, people are instinctive; it isn’t small print that helps them decide, it’s their sense of safety. Data transparency is about bridging the gap between perception and expectation. The Advisory Board will look at ways to make transparency a day-to-day reality for people," Barnard said.

The board will start by conducting consumer research to help bridge the gap between regulatory requirement and consumer reality in terms of how brands should be using personal data and use those findings to turn the key elements of the manifesto into a roadmap for change.

"We need to know what consumer needs have to be met so we're delivering against objectives," Loerke said. "It's one thing to produce a manifesto, another to understand what data transparency will deliver for the lives of people. Don't underestimate the challenge of finding the right approach to make delivering on this meaningful."

The intended output would include a toolkit for companies to use that identifies best practice in data transparency across three areas; consumer experience, data governance, and supply chain management.

"Amid growing concerns around privacy, advertisers need to be ready to step up and be accountable for data practices across their entire supply chain. This means doing a thorough spring clean and putting in place policies and standards – and start thinking really carefully about how they use data in marketing," Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer and president, Healthcare Business, at Mastercard, said. 

The more powerful marketing tools get, the greater responsibility brands have to be ethical and transparent, Antonio Lucio, chief marketing and communications officer at HP, agreed. "If the promise of these tools seems limitless, then so is their potential for abuse. Brands have a responsibility to be transparent, accountable and honour our relationships with audiences by ensuring choice, control and privacy of their data."

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