Unilever, Disney and Pernod Ricard pledge to go one step further than GDPR with WFA-backed data manifesto

WFA calls on marketers to go further than GDPR demands.

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has called on marketers to go one step further than GDPR and actively reduce the amount of data they use and take greater control of their media supply chain. Those that have already agreed include Unilever, Mars, Pernod Ricard and Shell.

WFA president, and RBS chief marketing officer, David Wheldon said the ‘Manifesto for Online Data Transparency’ has been two years in the making as marketers increasingly have to grapple with issues around how data is used in their digital supply chains.

It was brought to a head last year by the well-documented brand safety issues that plagued Google, accounts of data fraud, and the more recent scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

“What happened with Facebook was not in the slightest bit of a surprise. We’ve talked to them a lot and this is what hubris gets you,” Wheldon told The Drum.

“There is of course efficacy in the platform and successful business results, that can’t be denied, but what also can’t be denied is Facebook’s use of data and respect for people’s right to privacy has been limited and that’s why they’ve been caught out in the way they have.”

What the Facebook saga has brought to light is the increasing disconnect between how people think their data is being used, and the reality, and what happens to a company when that comes out. GDPR has been touted as a way of cleaning this up, though many are reported to be relying heavily on the ‘legitimate interest' rule to continue using personal data.

Yet Wheldon said that even before Facebook’s problems arose, WFA’s members were beginning to question if they ought to go beyond the basic GDPR legislation demands.

“We think GDPR goes some distance but not as far as it should – so we’re asking members to commit to going further,” he said.

The manifesto has encouraged brands to go beyond the legal steps required by GDPR and commit to a data ecosystem “that properly respects consumer choices and their right to control their own data.”

It covers four key areas: create strong data governance; minimise 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.

Diageo, Disney, Just Eat, Mars, Pernod Ricard and Shell have already backed the initiative and will sit on an advisory board to map out a plan to turn this vision into concrete action. The board will be led by Unilever’s general counsel for global marketing, media, and e-commerce, Jamie Barnard.

“When it comes to trust, people are instinctive; it isn’t small print that helps them decide, it’s their sense of safety,” said Barnard. “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.”

The board’s first job is to conduct consumer research which it hoped will bridge the gap between regulatory requirement and consumer reality in terms of how brands should be using personal data.

Those findings will then be used to inform a toolkit for companies to give guidance on best practice across three areas: consumer experience; data governance, and supply chain management.

Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing, and communications officer at Mastercard said that amid growing concerns around privacy, advertisers need to be ready to be more accountable for data practices.

“This means doing a spring clean and putting in place policies and standards – and start thinking really carefully about how they use data in marketing,” he said. “Companies that strive for full transparency and accountability in their production supply chains must start applying the same standards to their digital supply chain too.”

Similarly, Antonio Lucio, chief marketing officer at HP said with the ever-expanding number of marketing tools available – “tools that can influence massive numbers of people and shift public opinion faster than ever before” – and the limitless possibilities they offer, so too is the 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,” he added.

The WFA represents 90% of global marketing communications spend – roughly $900bn a year – and Wheldon said that the manifesto will likely court the attention of the tech giants.

“I am sure Facebook and Google will be all over all of this,” he said. “They are both advertiser funded platforms and this is what advertisers want so I expect them to pay attention”

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