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GroupM Launches New Data Ethics Tool To Mitigate Brand Risk

GroupM Launches New Data Ethics Tool To Mitigate Brand Risk

GroupM launched a tool in beta on Monday designed to help marketers determine the potential ethical risks associated with a data-driven campaign from a consumer perspective.

Launched in partnership with Unilever, GroupM’s Data Ethics Compass claims it’s the industry’s first ever tool to incorporate ethical decision making into data-driven media tactics, and to help prioritize consumers’ privacy. The tool uses a proprietary scoring logic to assess the risk level of data assets so brands can make informed decisions before launching data-driven campaigns.

Krystal Olivieri, GroupM’s Global SVP for Data Strategy and Partnerships, likened the platform to a brand-safety tool.The tool comes at a time when data collection in advertising continues to accelerate, and in the midst of growing calls to use data more ethically.

According to the World Federation of Advertisers, 74% of CMOs say data ethics will be more important to their role in the next five years and issues around data collection and privacy have become top priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, a WFA survey last year of senior executives at some of the world’s biggest brand owners revealed that 82% would consider leaving their current employer if they felt the approach to data was not ethical, while 26% of the 147 respondents – representing companies spending a global total of $55 billion on marketing communications – have already felt uncomfortable about the use of data at some time during their careers.

The Data Ethics Compass has been in development for six months with media agency Mindshare and was based in part on consumer input from GroupM’s ongoing live research panel last year.

It is currently in the beta phase and GroupM has been training teams across its agencies to use it. GroupM expects to broaden the rollout this month, with plans to expand the platform in the future so users can choose multiple options, such as selecting multiple regions or countries. Mindshare has already begun to embed the tool into its workflow with Unilever.

“We’re starting with choosing specific clients and specific client teams to roll it out in within each agency,” Olivieri said. “It is a beta product and we do want to be able to get the feedback on things that could be improved, areas where we might need to add a category.”

The Data Ethics Compass is also considered the third of three key steps following a compliance check and quality review to determine the legality of the data brands want to use in a campaign – ensuring the data is compliant with California’s CCPA and the EU’s GDPR – and ensure that data partners are in compliance.

The compass also asks whether fingerprinting was used to collect data from a user’s device, which could pose an ethical issue.

“We at GroupM believe that fingerprinting takes away control from the consumer – the consumer has no ability to opt-out of fingerprinting at this point and most of them don’t even know it’s happening,” Olivieri said. “We wanted a question very specifically pointed at that.”

And though it’s not a legal tool, the compass includes legal and regulatory “warnings” to remind users about certain legal requirements in different regions and jurisdictions.

“This tool was built by humans to bring a human lens and some empathy back into this process, and to really look at it from the notion of, just because you can [use certain data], it doesn’t mean you should,” OIivieri said.

“Each client is going to have a brand safety threshold, the same goes for this tool,” she said. “What it does allow us to do is go back to clients and have more informed decisions and determine, using this tool, if we’re comfortable moving ahead or not, because it can’t incorporate every nuance.”

The compass does not use AI or machine learning, and takes out the subjectivity of the decision-making process by guiding users through a dashboard showing risk levels and recommended actions. The web-based app works by guiding users through a simple, clear survey, delivering a risk band and recommended actions if an issue arises, such as an email template and talking points for clients.

A score can fall within four pillars: green, a low ethical risk; yellow, acceptable; orange, questionable; and red, a high ethical risk indicating that using the data is probably against GroupM's best practice guidelines. However, the Data Ethics Compass is meant as an advisory tool, and clients ultimately have the final say. So while a high risk score does not prohibit the use of the data, it does indicate the client should give additional consideration about whether using the data is ethically sound.

“Data ethics is subjective and we’re not here to impose GroupM’s perspectives on our clients, but we are here to start driving that thinking and start really changing the dialogue around how these tactics are viewed and considered,” Olivieri said.