2018.04.13 Last Week in Digital Media

We’re only weeks away from the Facebook and Google developer conferences, so the media, data and tech stream of news is slowing to a trickle.


During the week, it was announced that I am taking on additional responsibility within UM as Global Brand Safety Officer. In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more detail on what this means for clients and teams. What I do want to immediately share is that I have been working with the 4As to launch the Advertiser Protection Bureau (APB).

What is the APB? It is a cross-agency coalition where we will collectively share data and intelligence on Brand Safety Incidents (BSI). Yes, other major holding companies are actively participating. This is good news for everyone. Why? Because if any agency sees or experiences an issue, 1. we will all be alerted about the BSI; 2. be able to respond/protect our individual clients; 3. find what went wrong and 4. jointly hold partners accountable. It stops the game of telephone that occurs when there is an issue and we will now truly understand the magnitude of the challenges and be able to act as an industry.

One message I want everyone to take away is that brand safety cannot be seen as a source of competitive advantage. It’s in the interests of the entire industry to solve whether you’re an agency, advertiser, publisher or tech platform. Just like the credit card industry, card issuers collectively protect all banks and customers as there needs to be underlying confidence in the system. The same is true for brand safety, there’s no benefit to any advertiser or agency if their ads are “more brand safe” as problems undermine confidence across all advertisers for all of digital.

My immediate ask for you is if you ever see or experience a brand safety concern (even if not a UM client) – please let me know. More to come on this topic.

Zuckerberg’s testimony was received well by Wall St (stock was up 4.5% on Tuesday). It seems unlikely that the Federal Government will immediately push for regulation, but keep in mind that the FTC investigation is still to come as well as EU/UK investigations. The FTC investigation is significant because Facebook does have a consent decree with the FTC from 2011 which covers topics like privacy, apps with inappropriate data permissions, etc. all of which is directly connected to the Cambridge Analytica incident.

If you didn’t watch each hearing in full, the House transcript is here and the Senate transcript is here. Zuckerberg’s prepared remarks are also available (PDF). I have a clean PDF transcript of all documents. If you want a copy, email me.

Testimony Highlights:

There are infinite write-ups of what was / was not discovered during Zuckerberg’s testimony. I strongly recommend reading the testimony so you can understand what is relevant from your clients perspective. But here’s the major takeaways:

  • Zuckerberg expressed contrition for not only Cambridge Analytica but more general failure to adequately address Russian election interference
  • revealed that Zuckerberg’s own Facebook profile was part of the Cambridge Analytica data leak
  • continued to show general support for a GDPR-like self-regulated global privacy solution
  • did not rule out also offering a “paid” offering (in conjunction with free) for those that want an ad-free version

My personal pick for the most interesting direct question came from  Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) asked Zuckerberg if he would commit to minimizing, “to the greatest extent possible, the collection and use of users’ data.” Zuckerberg did not give a yes/no answer, saying the issue was complex. Vox has a good write up on the Pallone-Zuckerberg exchange. It does show that there is a regulator thinking that data collection should be opt-in for end-users.

One of the running jokes is that Zuckerberg’s testimony was similar to a Thanksgiving dinner where you describe what we in advertising/marketing do for a living to your parents/grandparents. While it’s a little funny, the past few days show just how little understanding there is of how sophisticated the industry has become and what end-users can do, should do and incorrectly believe to be true (No, Facebook doesn’t listen to you on your phone microphone). As an industry, we need to do better educating the public because if US-based privacy legislation is to ever eventuate, the worst thing for the industry would be for it to be driven and drafted from an ill-informed perspective (or conspiracy theories).

Other Facebook Updates

Have a great (brand) safe week.


PS. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had more than the usual number of people reach out to thank me for this email newsletter (it’s appreciated). I’ve also seen a spike in UM sign-ups. If you were forwarded the email, please subscribe.