Indian digital advertisers' scrutiny grows in wake of Facebook data leak

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The country’s top advertisers are evaluating their digital media plans following the Facebook data leak that surfaced last week. Media planners and buyers said they would wait for the safeguards, outlined by Facebook Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg, to be implemented, following the scandal involving British firm Cambridge Analytica.


Global majors such as internet browser Mozilla, Germany’s Commerzbank, and sound system company Sonos have pulled out advertisements from the social media platform.


India is Facebook’s largest market with 250 million active monthly users. It is also a large advertising and marketing platform for companies. Along with Google, it has a 70 per cent share in the Rs 10 billion domestic digital ad market.


The Indian government has said it will summon Zuckerberg if Facebook interferes in the country’s electoral process.


Ashish Bhasin, chairman and CEO, South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network, said: “Marketers and advertisers are getting vocal about the need for transparency and accountability in digital advertising. The latest issue concerning Facebook will force (digital) publishers and technology majors to clean up the system.”


Unilever and Procter & Gamble (P&G) have said they will get off online platforms that have toxic content. P&G said it had reduced $200 million in digital advertisements in 2017. It would slash its global advertising budget by $400 million. “Transparency put a spotlight on reality and we learnt valuable lessons,” said Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer.


Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing officer, said consumers were getting concerned about the impact of digital on their well-being. “This is not something that can be brushed aside or ignored,” he added.


Mary Meeker, partner at the United States-based consultancy Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, said there were almost 2.5 billion social media users in the world and that social media was rapidly becoming mobile.


Unilever has said it is working with IBM to develop a block-chain to address transparency and trust issues among its advertising partners. AT&T, Verizon, and Walmart are also working on similar lines, media executives said. They added that Indian firms were likely to follow suit.

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