Tech players need to 'grow up and be accountable' in 2018, says Audi's Braun

Audi UK marketing director Benjamin Braun's watchwords this year will be "hold people accountable" - whether they're suppliers or employees - he told Campaign's The Year Ahead breakfast briefing audience on Friday.

Panel (L-R): Follows, Braun, Temple and Tan
Panel (L-R): Follows, Braun, Temple and Tan

Braun raised this focus on accountability when asked by panel moderator Emily Tan, Campaign’s global technology editor, to name one thing he would be doing differently this year.

He had already introduced the term earlier in the session when asked what expectations Audi had of its online media partners in 2018.

"The maturity and accountability of our different suppliers and platforms is going to be key in 2018," Braun said [in spite, or perhaps, because of, parent company Volkswagen Group’s own issues with isolating responsibility for rigging diesel emissions tests].

It is time, Braun said, for newer companies – he singled out YouTube, Facebook, Google and Uber – to demonstrate accountability for what they do. It is also time for us – meaning marketers – to stop being forgiving of their errors when they claim they are still start-ups, he added.

"We’ve been quite forgiving in terms of their reporting and some of their behaviours. those unfortunate exposures that we’ve had," he said. "They are all maturing, they are all becoming real companies, they all need to grow up and take accountability for what they do, how they do it, and the relationship we have with them."

Braun’s fellow panellists to an extent echoed the idea that tech players will be held to stricter standards in future than to date.

Tracey Follows, the futurist and foudner of Futuremade, said it was evident that Silicon Valley understands it is under greater scrutiny from developments like Google-owned machine learning developer DeepMind setting up the DeepMind Ethics and Society Unit.

"There’s a reason they’ve done that," she said. "It’s because the ground is shifting and there are ethical questions now, not just about the way these companies run their business or treat their employees, but what the end user gets, and what it’s doing to the end users, and how we want, or don’t want, to use AI. It might not be regulation but certainly there’s much more debate and discussion around the ethicality of the technology."

James Temple, executive vice-president and chief creative officer at R/GA, talked about the growing understanding in the agency world of the importance of acting responsibly with data and preparing for the introduction of the GDPR data rules in May.

"We’re going out of our way internally to empower [our people] on everything [around data]," he said.

The panel "Brands, consumers and the tech equation: the trends you need to know", followed a presentation by marketing consultant and Campaign columnist Helen Edwards and a panel called "The outlook for agencies in 2018".

In that panel, Adam & Eve/DDB co-founder James Murphy called for creative agencies to "be more bolshy about their value" in order to contend with the growing encroachment of management consultancies on creative agency territory.

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