World Federation of Advertisers calls on brands to embrace culture of data transparency


WFA Manifesto calls on brands to adopt mindset of ‘people-first’ over ‘data first’ around the world when processing people’s data.


The WFA has published a new Manifesto for Online Data Transparency calling on brands to commit to a data ecosystem that properly respects consumer choices and their right to control their own data.

The Manifesto calls on brands in all markets around the world to go beyond the legal steps required by GDPR, which affects any company processing the personal data of anyone in the EU from May 2018, and recalibrate their approach to data more fundamentally across their companies.

The goal is to give people real control over how and where their data is used with a view to rebuilding consumer trust in online advertising.

The Manifesto calls on brands to commit to action in 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.

These measures go beyond what’s required by GDPR in key areas such as supply chain management and data governance but are more fundamentally aimed at creating a new mind-set that puts people rather than data first. The ultimate goal is to create an online advertising industry that is built on more trust, control and respect for people’s data.

“Research[1]indicates that consumers look to brands to help safeguard their privacy. This Manifesto is recognition that a great digital experience is not just about free, fast-loading content and an unintrusive ad experience. Increasingly, it’s about people feeling that they have control over their personal information. Companies should see data transparency as a competitive advantage to building more trusted and meaningful brand-consumer relationships,” said Stephan Loerke, WFA CEO.

“Just as 2017 was the year of media transparency, 2018 is the year of data transparency. Just look at the recent outcry over Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. GDPR is going to flip control back into the hands of consumers and hold brands accountable in a way they've never been before. The marketing community needs to go back to thinking first and foremost about the people behind the data, their expectations and their rights,”said David Wheldon, President of the World Federation of Advertisers and CMO Royal Bank of Scotland.

The WFA is creating an advisory board, which will look to turn this vision into concrete action. The board will be led by Unilever’s General Counsel – Global Marketing, Media and eCommerce Jamie Barnard who will work with the WFA as well as a cross-functional team of experts from companies including Diageo, Disney, Just Eat, Mars, Pernod Ricard and Shell.

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

The board will start by conducting consumer research to help bridge the gap between regulatory requirement and consumer reality in terms of how brands should be using personal data and use those findings to turn the key elements of the manifesto into a roadmap for change.

“Data is an invaluable commodity that needs to be treated with the utmost care and respect. In a post GDPR world, data sharing must be seen in the context of mutual respect and value exchange, a scenario that promises a more sustainable vision for the future of digital advertising. Ultimately, this will lead to greater relevance and trust in mobile and online advertising, more sustainable brand-consumer relationships and better marketing,” said Domitille Doat, Danone’s Chief Digital Officer.

The intended output would include a toolkit for companies to use which identifies best practice in data transparency across three areas; consumer experience, data governance and supply chain management.

“Amidst growing concerns around privacy, advertisers need to be ready to step up and be accountable for data practices across their entire supply chain. This means doing a thorough spring clean and putting in place policies and standards – and start thinking really carefully about how they use data in marketing. 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,”said Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer and President, Healthcare Business, at Mastercard.

“With ever-increasing data collection and analytical capacity, we have powerful marketing tools at our disposal—tools that can influence massive numbers of people and shift public opinion faster than ever before. If the promise of these tools seems limitless, then so is their potential for abuse,”said Antonio Lucio, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at HP. “Brands have a responsibility to be transparent, accountable and honor our relationships with audiences by ensuring choice, control and privacy of their data.”

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA)is the voice of marketers worldwide, representing 90% of global marketing communications spend – roughly US$900 billion per annum – through a unique, global network of the world’s biggest marketsand biggest marketers. WFA’s champions responsible and effective marketing communications worldwide. More information at

Ian Woolley, Chief Revenue Officer at Ensighten, added: “Brands and the wider advertising industry need to band together to address GDPR - the WFA’s manifesto is encouraging and shows an united front to make a difference to consumer data experiences. Apple, WhatsApp and Facebook are cleaning up their act but brands coming together to champion transparency will ensure the pressure is kept on to improve personal data experiences in a post GDPR world.”

“With GDPR offering transparency between consumers, brands and agencies, the value exchange is strengthened. Data works in both parties’ favour: brands are able to better match customers with products or services that appeal to their preferences, and customers are greeted with relevant and engaging content. In the long-term this builds customer trust and should help build brand advocacy.”

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