WPP’s GroupM works with Unilever to measure ethical risks of data-driven campaigns

Dive Brief:

  • WPP’s GroupM has developed a global web app to help marketers apply a standardized framework to evaluating data from an ethical standpoint, per an announcement. Unilever is a launch partner and one of the first marketers to leverage GroupM’s proprietary Data Ethics Compass, with the two companies developing an iteration that reflects the CPG’s mission across the campaign planning life cycle.
  • The software provides a scale to measure data ethics risk consistently among GroupM’s agency brands including Mindshare. The media agency is evaluating active campaigns and brand scenarios as part of the collaboration with Unilever to remove subjectivity from decisions about the ethical use of data.
  • GroupM’s Data Ethics Compass comes as a variety of regions worldwide enact laws to give consumers greater control over how their personal data is collected, shared and used for marketing. Technology giants such as Apple and Google are responding to consumer concerns about privacy with their plans to disable technologies used for online tracking.

Dive Insight:

GroupM’s Data Ethics Compass points to how the marketing industry is moving towards more standardized data privacy efforts in an attempt to address growing concerns about privacy while trying to avoid regulators enacting stricter rules and regulations about data sharing. Consumers are three times as likely to trust businesses that are ethical rather than competent, which means “binary decisions taken on whether data is ‘opted in’ or not aren’t sustainable in our industry any longer,” according to GroupM.

“Our Data Ethics Compass provides clients a consistent approach on how best to navigate ethical risk and prioritize and respect the privacy of people on the other side of the screen,” Krystal Olivieri, GroupM’s global senior vice president for data strategy and partnerships, said in the announcement. “This new capability demonstrates GroupM’s belief that even though you have access to certain data, it doesn’t mean you should always use it.”

Unilever partnering with GroupM to evaluate ethical data usage is consistent with the CPG’s corporate mission to support causes such as diversity and inclusion as well as environmental sustainability. The company, whose brands include Dove soap, Lipton tea and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, last month published a plan for fighting two issues it views as the biggest threats to society, climate change and social inequality. As part of that effort, the company feature more diverse groups in its advertising and work with businesses that are owned or operated by underrepresented groups.

GroupM’s new ethics tool is one of three key steps in evaluating the legality of using data in a campaign, following a compliance check and quality review, according to an AdExchanger report. A compliance review should be part of the effort to follow the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the most populous U.S. state and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GroupM’s tool also reviews the use of online “fingerprinting” — which uses internet addresses, screen settings and other data provided by a web browser — to track consumers and retarget ads, an ethically dubious practice.

Consumer concerns about privacy have led Google and Apple to respond by offering people more control over how their online activities are tracked. Google is pushing ahead with a plan to end support for third-party cookies in Chrome, the world’s most popular web browser, by next year. The search company in January provided more details about an alternative tracking technology called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) that is being developed to provide an extra layer of privacy. Apple this spring will update the software that runs devices like the iPhone to notify its customers when apps want to track them, a move that has caused consternation in the advertising industry.

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