Just in time for the GDPR era, the World Federation of Advertisers has published a new “Manifesto for Online Data Transparency” calling on brands to commit to a data ecosystem that properly respects consumer choices and their right to control their own data.
That sounds promising, but right off the top I can think of a few problems: malicious hackers, companies’ ineptitude when it comes to dealing with them and the fact that most consumers don’t have a clue about data or what choices to make about controlling it.
Oh, and let’s face it: Brands don’t want consumers to control their data.
Brands want to control it and figure out ways to leverage it to sell more stuff. That’s their reason for being. But then there’s that ineptitude issue. Remember that Target breach? What was it, 60 million or 70 million consumers whose data was compromised? Let’s set Equifax aside for another discussion.
That said, the WFA is on to something. Consumers need to be more savvy about their data—like knowing exactly what it is, how much of it there is, who has access to it, who they want to have access to it and under what conditions.
Proper stewardship of your own data—that’s the quid pro quo for being able to go online, surf around and with one click have something appear on your doorstep a few hours later. Or research a critical health issue. Or do a dozen other things that we do regularly online nowadays that we consider the norm.
The ability to do that is amazing. But there are risks.
Lots of bad guys out there want your data as much as brands just practicing good old fashioned capitalism. Brands, consumers and probably governments all share responsibility for making sure data is utilized safely and responsibly.
The WFA Manifesto calls on brands around the world to go beyond the legal steps required by GDPR, which affects any company processing the personal data of anyone in the EU (starting next month) and “recalibrate” their approach to data more fundamentally across their companies.
The organization says the goal is to give people—consumers--real control over how and where their data is used with a view to rebuilding consumer trust in online advertising. Trust has been pretty severely compromised; Cambridge Analytica being just a recent example.
The Manifesto calls on brands to commit to action in four key areas: create strong data governance, minimize data collection, provide consumers with real control and choice over how their data is used and to take much more active control of their data supply chain.
In theory, that all sounds great. For those marketers out there that agree, be prepared to spend a good chunk of change to make it happen. Some really smart advertising directed at consumers—reminding them they have skin in this game and need to get up to speed—would help advance this cause.
The WFA is creating an advisory board, which is tasked with turning this vision into action. The board will be led by Unilever’s General Counsel for Global Marketing, Media and eCommerce Jamie Barnard. He’ll work with other experts from companies, including Diageo, Disney, Just Eat, Mars, Pernod Ricard and Shell.
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.
Hmmm. Sounds like the makings of a political snake pit, given the varying agendas of brands and consumers. But hey WFA, if you’re seriously willing to undertake that effort, I’m willing to keep an open mind. Sounds like a road map that will take a while to draw. Let’s see how far along you are in a year.
The WFA collected quotes from some marketers said to be on board with the effort. I’ll print one from a CMO whose work on the diversity front I respect a lot, HP’s Antonio Lucio:
“With ever-increasing data collection and analytical capacity, we have powerful marketing tools at our disposal—tools that can influence massive numbers of people and shift public opinion faster than ever before. If the promise of these tools seems limitless, then so is their potential for abuse. Brands have a responsibility to be transparent, accountable and honor our relationships with audiences by ensuring choice, control and privacy of their data.”
Well said, Antonio. Here’s hoping we get there some day.