'Data is the new oil'. It is not clear who deserves credit for coining this phrase, but it has been used extensively by the who's who - from Mukesh Ambani to Virginia Rometty. And it seems, like oil, data too is going to create a storm around the world, if not a war. The Facebook data breach episode, wherein the social media giant has been accused of leaking personal data of its users allowing misuse by political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, shocked some and validated the fears of some others'.
As users mull over deleting their Facebook accounts, brands find themselves in a moral dilemma. While they don't want to be on a platform that is facing a backlash across the world for its negligence, they cannot afford to turn their back on the marketing opportunities Facebook presents.
For years now, brands have used data provided by the platform for targetted advertising. But the data breach has forced FMCG brands to do a relook. Companies like Tesla and Mozilla have reportedly put a stop to their activities on Facebook. Will Indian brands follow suit? How will it affect the digital marketing space in India?
According to Ashish Bhasin, Chairman and CEO, South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network, this is not going to have any significant impact on digital marketing in India, given the scale at which it is growing in India. A recent report by the agency projects that, by 2020, digital advertising is expected to have almost 25 per cent share in the overall advertising market in India - which will roughly amount to `18,986 crore.
"The growth in digital advertising is not happening because of Google, Facebook or any specific channel. It is happening because there is a substantial change at the macro level and more users are taking to Internet in India," Bhasin adds.
Although most digital marketing experts do not see a major change in the short term, they believe if Facebook fails to address the issue and user numbers decline, then brands too would start withdrawing.
"As long as there are users on the platform brands will advertise there," says Rohit Raj, Co-founder & Creative Chief at digital agency The Glitch.
This episode will certainly ensure that brands and social networks tread with caution. "Consumers are not going to change their digital consumption habits drastically because of this incident. But they are more aware now. Social networks and apps will become more responsible and transparent in data collection," says Shrenik Gandhi, Co-founder White Rivers Media.
However, the possibility of a shift in preference among users and advertisers towards other social media sites is likely. Neil Shah, Research Director, Devices & Ecosystems at Counterpoint Research, says that Facebook-owned Instagram could inadvertently benefit, though the biggest beneficiary could be Twitter or Google.
"Other ad-based services such as Hotstar, Wynk, Truecaller and YouTube could also benefit. The form of targetted advertising will differ depending on the alternative platforms marketers choose," he adds.