A brave new world of risk and compliance

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 12 December 2022
Gavin Watson.

This is the first article in a miniseries about risk and compliance. AdNews also spoke with DoubleVerify, InfoSum, Scope3, Quantcast and The Australian Data and Insights Association about what risk and compliance means to them.

For many marketers, risk and compliance were afterthoughts for advertisements, creative campaigns and brand executions, if even thoughts at all – such stuffy considerations that were often full of confusing requirements sat squarely within the domain of legal teams.

In the world of marketing today, however, risk and compliance need to be thought of first and foremost as all the different ways that companies can be exposed to risk and non-compliance has exponentially increased – not just in their own creative output, but also via social media platforms, privacy and data regulation, environmental concerns and ad fraud.

AdNews spoke with Gavin Watson, the marketing, creative and advertising industry lead for work management software group monday.com, and a former marketing director, about the reasons risk and compliance have come to the forefront of marketer’s minds, what role CMOs can play and why consistent briefing is key.

“If I go back 20 or more years, when I used to work with a lot of the retail channel - distributing products into the retail channel and creating marketing content - it was more about the offer and the messaging; compliance wasn't really a thought. 

“There were certain bodies that weren't as strong, visible or prevalent then, like the ACCC, and consumers rights weren’t as strong as what they are today.”

Watson said that since then, the rise of consumer bodies like the ACCC, combined with all the channels that a consumer can create a voice on and create noise about a brand, has made compliance a forefront for brands, retailers or anyone that's putting anything in front of consumers.

“We've worked with a number of consultant companies who have had to go into companies and actually pull apart how they work and look at everything with a compliance lens. 

“It's actually really interesting when you then break that apart because compliance can then become an issue if you've got external parties that you're working with. If you're a marketer or a CMO, you can contain a lot of what goes on internally. 

“If you've then got external companies producing content - agencies, production companies, visual merchandisers - for something like out of home campaigns and you haven't got control over or visibility over that before it goes to market, there's a risk factor there.”

Watson said that internally, however, there's also a lot of different touchpoints for marketers to cover with their own set of compliance and risk factors to manage.

“I’m seeing an upward trend in people being put into marketing risk officer roles, who are really looking at and protecting brand identity, assessing the risk in terms of what’s being put into market and all the channels you’re exposed into and encompassing feedback from customers and how you’re responding.”

Watson said he believes the creation of such roles is a relatively new phenomenon as traditionally, such responsibilities sat with dedicated compliance and legal teams. 

“I remember five to six years ago, I worked on a large RFP which was for a large healthcare brand. For them, it was all about creating workflows, so every bit of content that got created ultimately went up to the legal team and the compliance team; they were the ultimate sign offs. 

“If you fast forward to where we are today, the legal and compliance teams are still involved, but they don't necessarily understand the tone from the marketing perspective.

“I think that's what's creating these roles - that you need a hybrid, someone who can work closely with legal and compliance, but then they understand the marketing function and why some of those things are being done in a certain way.

“They understand the tone that's been put out to market or the offer or the campaign, and they can then look at it in its entirety and make sure it's got the right focus from the marketing and sales perspective, but it's also covering what legal and compliance expect.”

Watson said CMOs have a critical role to play in this process as well - embracing and supporting the likes of marketing risk officers, because for CMOS to manage such responsibilities themselves doesn't make sense. 

“It’s about having that data at their disposal really quickly. 

“Let's say for example there's stuff going on in their social channels that is bordering on having an impact to the brand or campaign; if the information is coming up to the CMO, quicker and in real time, they can then make better decisions.

“I'm seeing CMOS really interested in seeing the marketing calendar; what is everything we have going on in every channel on every day or month? What are all the campaigns we've got happening? How are these performing and what's the market telling us about it? Is there a risk if we keep doing this? 

Watson said that the most important solutions organisations can roll out to ensure compliance is consistent briefing of what's happening in the marketing function.

“If you think about it from a brand perspective, it’s ensuring this consistent briefing on the content that's being produced, and that briefing process then allows you to encompass external parties.

“You need to make sure the content that gets produced – all your social channels, your print, your TV, your above line, your blogs - is going through an approval process. 

“It’s a multi-stage process: ‘I've collected feedback internally, we're happy with it and we’ve mitigated our own risk. If a third-party supplier’s involved, I’ve gotten their input and feedback on it as well. I've got a whole audit trail that I can come back on because ACCC says you need to keep records of the process you went through for a number of years’. 

“More and more now, it's an area of focus and I think with the right tools and the right people in place, you can definitely put the parameters in there to mitigate this risk.”

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