As the sagas surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica continue to unfold, are brands losing faith with online digital platforms? Could brands turn increasingly to television, print or other media to ensure their positions of trust with their customers remains intact?

Whether it be the harvesting of profiles or the spread of “fake news“ through online digital media, questions over the sanctimony of our digital worlds are certainly prevalent. The Association of Magazine Media fake news claims are “running rampant,“ leading brands to question “the trust and brand safety of content environments,“ according to the Association. Last year, Proctor and Gamble cut up to $140 million digital advertising spend due to bots and brand safety concerns.

Keith Weed, Chief Marketing Officer of Unilever, recently gave a speech outlining the need for tech platforms to clamp down on fake news and hate speech as reported by Adweek. The news this week is likely to have intensified the focus of brands on these areas. Mark Zuckerberg responded in a CNN interview, “So this was a major breach of trust and I’m really sorry that this happened. You know we have a basic responsibility to protect people’s data and if we can’t do that then we don’t deserve to have the opportunity to serve people.

So our responsibility now is to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.” Whether his words prove hollow will be proved in time, but given this is not the first ‘breach of trust’ means that the seeds of doubt already sown in the minds of many brand boardrooms will be only be growing.

As well as Facebook, Google and Youtube came under fire this time last year. AT&T, Verizon and Johnson & Johnson declared they would cease advertising on YouTube until the Google owned company met certain brand safety requirements. This was amid concerns regarding extremist content. Just this month Rhianna reacted angrily to an ad hosted by Snapchat which seemed to poke fun at her suffering of domestic abuse at the hands of Chris Brown. The advert for the game Would You Rather? asked viewers to choose to “Slap Rihanna” or “Punch Chris Brown.” Her lengthy statement saw the company’s share value drop by 3.64 percent, the equivalent of roughly $754 million.

Perhaps it will be good news particularly for print, an area that seemed in danger of disappearing, and a medium which brands may start returning to more frequently. An article in Print Power concluded, “the checks and balances built into print, particularly at the higher end of the market, means that a human – usually several – will always be on hand not only to fact-check but also proofread and oversee the final product, meaning fake news and unsavoury views are much less likely to see the light of day.“

It seems clear that transparency, content control and accreditation will need to be thrust to the forefront. Maybe then brands can start to re-build trust for Facebook and other digital platforms.
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