One in twenty Brits has deleted Facebook as a result of the Cambridge Analytica revelations. What does this mean for social media marketing and advertising?


What did Cambridge Analytica do?

Cambridge Analytica created a system which sorted through 50 million Facebook accounts to create psychological profiles from users’ social data. They didn’t have permission to use this info, and it’s been seen as a breach of trust – especially when coupled with the filmed confessions of “manufactured sex scandals, fake news and dirty tricks” by CEO Alexander Nix.



What Facebook data looks like

What did they do with the data?

With this data, Cambridge Analytica and a linked company, AIQ, targeted individuals to influence their votes in major elections and referendums – for example, the election of Donald Trump and the UK’s EU referendum. There is widespread anger from Facebook’s users that their data has been misused in an attempt to influence their behaviour.



Zuckerberg’s company knew about Cambridge Analytica’s data breach way back in 2015, but only took action in early 2018. Former Facebook manager Sandy Parakilas says that 100s of millions more Facebook users’ information could be used in the same way by private companies.

Facebook have announced that from April 9th, if your data was used by Cambridge Analytica, you’ll be notified.

“Society might have woken up last month thinking there was a burglar in their house, but on running downstairs with a baseball bat they are now discovering it was just their new Alexa doing what they allowed her to do, even though they did not know they allowed her to do it.” 

Mark Ritson 

April 3rd 2018

Marketing Week


The recent “revelations” that Cambridge Analytica (and by proxy, Facebook!) have been taking your data and using it to make you think things are… unsurprising. For years, Facebook has been gathering and monitoring data to assign you a profile that gives you more specific ads. Google does it too.

What they know



The general outrage that data has been misused to influence major world events by Cambridge Analytica and its counterparts is overdue and confusing at the same time. Whilst it’s hidden away in the deep recesses (sort of) of the site, you can see what Facebook knows about you.  This might not necessarily be the data CA took, but it’s an insight into what Facebook knows and how passive users have been so far in the face of data harvesting.

The betrayal that many are feeling needs to be addressed in the marketing/advertising sphere. What can we, as advertisers, do to make sure our ads aren’t seen as intrusive, whilst remaining relevant?


What to do

People hate the idea that they’ve been tricked into buying things.

They hate targeted ads which are overly specific because they don’t like the idea of being spied on. They also hate “bad ads” – ads that are misleading, that look unprofessional and are intrusive.

Restoring trust

With this in mind, we can develop strategies to retain our customers’ trust:

  • Create better ads. If the design is bad, the ad is bad. If the copy is bad, the ad is bad. If the placement is bad, the ad is bad. How do you ensure the ad is good? You get an agency to do it for you (hint, hint).
  • Get offline. Does the general public mistrust advertisers or Facebook itself? Not everything has to be digital. Depending on your product, you may find OOH (Out Of Home) advertising is your best course of action. Or a print ad. Or radio. Basically, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
  • Be honest. A few years ago, we worked on a campaign for Ikano Bank which focused on the “reluctant marketeer” – the idea that Ikano didn’t like advertising, but it was a necessary evil. The campaign was a hit, thanks to its honesty. If, in the current climate, people don’t like advertising, don’t give them advertising! Take their side, and play their game.

The plain truth is that Facebook changed advertising and marketing forever – and along with Cambridge Analytica, has just changed it again. It’s up to us to continue to adapt the way we use the available channels as the marketplace evolves.



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