WFA playbook 2023 charges CMOs to change internal culture to deliver data ethics

By Felicia Nwosu

A playbook titled: WFA Data Ethics Playbook 2023, developed by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), has emphasized the need for Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) to change their internal culture to enable them deliver data ethics. The world advertising body revealed that the import of the playbook is to provide guidance to help brands foster an internal culture rooted in the ethical and responsible use of data.

According to the  global network of the world’s biggest markets, the WFA’s CMO Guide to Data Ethics in Practice puts forward a global data ethics framework with 20 key recommendations that CMOs can take when it comes to data-driven marketing and responsibilities around AI.  It stated that this is to help close the near 50-point gap between ambition and reality.

The playbook was developed in collaboration with 13 WFA member organisations (AB InBev, Coty, ISBA, Johnson & Johnson, Reckitt, Red Bull, Kenvue, Kraft Heinz, Nestlé, P&G, Philips, Shell and Unilever), aimed at providing six practical recommendations brands can take to drive an ethical culture shift.

The global advertising body noted that building a culture of data ethics is fundamental to ensuring that organisations act consistently in the best interests of consumers and establish transparency, accountability and integrity in their marketing operations.

It revealed in its findings that the existence of an intention action gap, which through its research showed that only 41% of global CMOs say data ethics has become an integral part of their organisation’s culture.

The advertiser’s mouthpiece said this surfaced in September 2022 when digital advertising was facing unprecedented activist and regulatory scrutiny which called into question the data-driven marketing status quo. As a result, WFA research shows that 90% of CMOs say data ethics is a priority for their organisation.

The report, however, indicated that 50% of CMOs still lack a clear understanding of what this means when it comes to the processes and practices they need to apply internally and across their marketing supply chains. It, therefore, stated that the guide is intended to help CMOs address challenges and lay down the steps they can take to drive more ethical data practices and propel a more responsible path forward for the digital ad industry.

WFA suggested that, for companies to embrace the culture of building the business case for data ethics, there is need to create a harmonized narrative internally on the importance of responsible and ethical data use and promote data ethics as good for business, consumers and society at large. It also urged teams across functions to collaborate to define a set of data ethics principles which align with industry best-practice and their company values and bring them to life in the various functions dealing with data.

The voice of client-side marketers worldwide explained that in trying to clarify roles and responsibilities, there is a need to create dedicated functions to streamline data ethics internally while urging all employees to contribute to the organisations’ collective efforts and understand their responsibilities for upholding ethics in the data-related decisions they take.

Catherina Kowsoleea, Head of Global Media Management, at Royal Philips, said: “The WFA Data Ethics Playbook provides a clear framework for addressing the complex and cross-disciplinary conversations that global organisations need to have to foster the cultural change needed to implement data ethics. This culture must be adopted at all levels of the organization and should not be the responsibility of a single person. It should rather be shared across an interdepartmental team. This Playbook supports companies in setting clear expectations on responsibilities and ensuring that ethical implications are considered at all stages of marketing operations.”

Some global brands, who believe in the global protection of right use of data, have also demonstrated their support towards the achievement of the goal of the playbook by pledging their support and commitments.

Nendra van Wielink-Mohamed, Associate Director, Global Media, Kraft Heinz, noted: “At Kraft Heinz, we are fueled by our company values, and two of those values are: We Dare to Do Better Every Day, and We Do The Right Thing. As part of those values, we see culture change around data ethics principles as a necessity, not a luxury. It is comforting to know that we are not alone in the intricate maze of responsible data practices. For an organisation like ours, which is still in the journey of navigating the ethical complexities in a data-driven world, this toolkit could not have come at a better time. At Kraft Heinz, it is critical that our teams across the enterprise understand the importance of company-wide ethics principles and standards and know how to apply the governance in the work they do each day.”

Also another industry leader, Debbie Cartledge, Data & AI Ethics Strategy Lead & Olivia Murfitt, Data Ethics Senior Manager, Unilever, said: “At Unilever we have been on our journey for a few years now and have in place many of the practices identified in the playbook. Our work has been focused around bringing our Data Ethics Principles to life, through deep dives and case studies, to show how the value of considering data ethics can support and add to their decision making. We have also helped our teams be armed with how to identify and address potential ethical considerations through a data ethics impact assessment. This toolkit will enable brands to quickly reflect on where they are today and pick the areas that are relevant to them. A culture change does not happen overnight so having this to help guide and craft that journey is something we wish we had available to us a couple of years ago.”


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