Marketing standards

It is important that the work we create balances commercial objectives with the need to represent products and services honestly and accurately and to protect consumer privacy. Clear policies, training and communication reinforce our commitment to ethical behaviour.

Our approach covers the following three areas:

  • Ethical decision making and business ethics
  • Privacy
  • Public affairs

George Pappachen

Chief privacy officer


Data collection: a question of balance

In focus: Privacy

Our companies collect consumer data to study attitudes and behaviour and create digital and direct marketing campaigns.

Many of our companies have appointed chief privacy officers, who are leading experts on privacy. We work closely with clients to help them adopt the right privacy practices, and with trade associations and industry partners to improve information and tools for consumers. For example, our companies helped develop and roll out the Digital Advertising Alliance ‘icon’, which improves consumer control over how personal data is used online.

In 2012 we launched our ‘Data Code of Conduct’ – a simple one-page set of principles to guide employees.

In focus: Privacy

Key facts and data

  • Over 100,000 employees completed our ethics training and anti-bribery training
  • Many professionals from our companies participate in industry groups and help to develop and evolve codes of practice
  • Our Code of Conduct and Sustainability Policy explain our standards and set out the guiding principles for all our companies

In our companies

  • Privacy practices at Kantar

    Kantar, our global insights and market research group, has a chief privacy officer and a Privacy Network of experts from across its businesses. It meets every two months to discuss external and internal developments and identify any actions required and best practices to adopt. It has launched a series of standards and frameworks governing privacy and data practices. These include its Survey Data Sharing Framework, for companies working with data from survey responses, and its Passive Collection Framework, for companies managing behavioural data. 

    In addition to WPP training on privacy, all units within Kantar provide specific modules relevant to the privacy issues in their business. For example, a module is run on client sample data for employees handling research data that comes from the client rather than being collected by the agency. 

    Several parts of Kantar have achieved external accreditation for their market research and information security management systems. For example, Kantar Operations, which provides centralised market research and data services for the Kantar group, has been accredited with ISO 20252 in its UK and North American offices and ISO 27001 in its UK and India offices. George Pappachen, Kantar’s chief privacy officer, is a member of the privacy and legal affairs committees of the industry associations ESOMAR, MRA and CASRO and serves on the Public Policy Council of IAB, which guides the interactive industry. 

    Kantar works with a number of organisations to improve privacy practices. In 2012, this included work with TRUSTe on uniform data storage and retention protocols, to improve transparency for consumers over how their data will be used and how long it will be retained; with ESOMAR to launch an online platform that covers the entire industry and improves transparency around the use of data in research; and with W3C and others on issues around online tracking.

    Ethics in pharmaceutical marketing

    Pharmaceutical companies operate in a highly-regulated environment and their sales and marketing practices are subject to a high level of scrutiny. Sudler & Hennessey, a WPP agency providing pharmaceutical advertising, promotional and medical education services, has implemented a full compliance program to make sure its client work meets the highest ethical standards and to provide guidance to clients on regulatory compliance.

    A full-time compliance officer works to embed high ethical standards, oversees training and policy implementation, and collaborates with clients on ethical issues. A Regulatory Ethical Monitoring Board, made up of senior leaders, oversees compliance efforts and reviews any cases of concern. 

    All employees must understand relevant regulations and comply with the agency’s healthcare compliance guidelines. New hires complete compliance training within the first 45 days of employment, and receive regular communications on ethics and compliance. These include examples of ethical dilemmas and scenarios employees may encounter in their work, to help promote discussion on these topics.

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