Faaez Samadi
Mar 26, 2018

Facebook scandal 'puts brands in a delicate position'

It’s not the end of days by any means, but brands will have to re-think their relationship with one of the world’s biggest ad platforms, observers say.

Facebook scandal 'puts brands in a delicate position'

Facebook has been quick to issue solutions in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Of particular interest are its intentions to further restrict developer and app access to Facebook data, carry out an audit of third-party apps on the platforms, and remove access to consumer data for apps that haven’t been opened for three months.

The rising momentum of the #DeleteFacebook movement suggests an attitude of ‘too little, too late’ among some consumers. But what about advertisers and brands? What do these changes and the whole CA scandal in general mean for their interactions with Facebook? Campaign spoke to several industry leaders to get their take. 

‘It’s a double-edged sword’
Justin Peyton, CSO APAC, Digitas

The predicament puts brands in a delicate position. While brands must all stand up against any data breaches that risk consumer privacy, and while none would want the data they capture and use to be accessed by unauthorised parties, many brands have also sought more data from Facebook and more liberal rules about how data can be used to help them in their consumer targeting objectives.

It's a double-edged sword. If they keep asking for more data access and visibility into the data that Facebook has, this can be seen as not protecting consumer privacy. On the other hand, if they push for increased regulation, they risk losing some of the benefits afforded to them by the very asset they covet most from Facebook: the data. 

But the reality for most brands is that they are not in a position where they need to react just yet. The scandal has not directly impacted advertisers in a way that makes them accountable, and it has not put their brands in jeopardy up until this point. For brands, Facebook remains and will likely remain a platform with unparalleled reach and targeting capabilities.

‘There’s nothing wrong with targeted advertising’
Arthur Policarpio, CEO, Mobext

I don’t think this move will impact advertisers that much. Based on my understanding, the restrictions will principally be on third-party apps which use Facebook data. Advertisers will still be able to use all the available rich ad targeting options in the Facebook ads manager for their ad campaigns. 

This is actually helpful in ensuring Facebook users get ads that are relevant and useful to them. There’s nothing wrong with targeted advertising—this is a sort of “access fee” that people should be willing to live with in exchange for open and free access to useful platforms like Facebook. 

Advertising is better if it is targeted and relevant to people. To make ads more relevant, publishers need consumer data for better targeting, as long as publishers don’t give away the actual data.

What is wrong, however, is when unscrupulous apps and publishers use the Facebook platform to get direct access to consumer data without consent. Facebook’s moves to impose stricter measures on these third-party apps will address this issue, and I fully support it.

Mark Zuckerberg (seen in a file photo) outlined Facebook's response plan in interviews last week.

‘Audience targeting may get tougher’
Nicholas Pan and Oliver Eriksson, managing directors, strategy & intelligence, VML SEA & India

Audience targeting with Facebook data has become the norm, but with the Cambridge Analytica situation, we might see some users remove their personal data from the platform or change it—I know of many friends with birthdays on 1 January. Either way, this makes audience targeting slightly tougher. However, users’ behavioural data will still have to stay within Facebook in order for Newsfeed algorithms to work.

For brands who rely heavily on audience targeting to push messages to their intended audience, it’s time to focus on creating truly valuable content.

We of course still need to see what happens with the various investigations, but I’d be very surprised if any brand is totally OK with this situation. A marketer will typically worry about “brand safety” when it comes to their messages being associated with websites that have obscene content. This is all the more so if it’s about being associated with places in which consumers feel their personal data is being abused.

‘Trust and relevance are still key’
Tim Freeman, head of digital, Colenso BBDO

Facebook has always provided an interesting challenge for brands and agencies, but it’s important to keep in mind that it is just one component in a wider marketing strategy.

Even though the recent data scandal is a massive misuse of data, in the long-term, I don’t think it will drastically change how brands will use the platform to connect with users, grow communities and execute campaigns.

Trust and relevance are still key. Facebook provide their own set of tools to identify audiences, and when coupled with a brands first-party data, brands can connect with the right people, at the right time with the right message; creating meaningful value for both users and the brand.

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