Facebook’s Carolyn Everson: Rebuilding Trust Is Company’s ‘Total Focus’

'The average person does not understand how online advertising works,' marketing head says

Everson, Facebook’s global head of marketing solutions, sat down with Adweek for a wide-ranging interview.
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Facebook’s had a brutal year.

After being criticized for its role in spreading disinformation intended to affect the 2016 presidential election, the massive social media company has been battered by months of bad news, beginning with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, intensifying with scrutiny over fake news on the platform, and it’s been linked to violence in Germany, Malaysia, Libya and the Philippines.

Facebook has rolled out a number of changes intended to stem the flow of fake news, increase transparency and rebuild trust with people who have abandoned the service. The company has partnered with fact-checkers, started labeling ads that contain political content and made other changes, but those updates have caused headaches and controversies of their own.

On Sept. 7, Adweek interviewed Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s global head of marketing solutions, about moving forward and about the initiatives the company has rolled out to try to address looming public criticism and lawmaker scrutiny. The conversation was part of a wide-ranging sit-down interview that Adweek conducted with Everson, along with Kay Hsu, the global lead for Instagram’s creative shop, Patrick Harris, the head of Facebook’s global agency team, and Karin Tracy, Facebook and Instagram’s head of industry, beauty, fashion and retail.

Everson identified four major pillars that have been Facebook’s focus in 2018: data security and privacy, misinformation and fake news, tools and consumer education, and brand safety. The conversation also touched on the company’s attempts to address trust on the platform, how it is working with publishers and how it is bracing for pushes for more privacy.

“The average person does not understand how online advertising works or how their data are being utilized,” Everson said. “And that is not the average consumer person’s fault. That is the industry’s responsibility. We have to do our part — and I think you are starting to see a lot of initiatives [to] really provide much better tools and consumer education. But I think we collectively have a long way to go so that people understand how to protect their privacy and how data are being utilized.”

Below are several discussions from the roundtable that touched on trust, data and privacy.

On winning back peoples’ trust

Adweek: A lot of these four pillars you mentioned speak to trying to establish and maintain trust. There was a study from Pew Research Center that said more than 40 percent of Facebook users between the age of 18 and 29 had deleted Facebook from their phones in the past year. I wonder what your thinking is in terms of reestablishing that trust. Where are you trying to get those people back? What’s the path forward there?
Carolyn Everson: Trust is the most important thing. It’s the baseline, and we talk about it that way internally. That is the foundation. I know the Pew study. I do want to just say for the record that it is self-reported data. It does not match our internal numbers. I think that’s important for you to know. The more important part of your question is what are we doing to restore trust? Because there was definitely a breach of trust that happened for the consumers that were impacted by Cambridge Analytica. We’re concerned about that.

The way we think about it, you can’t rebuild trust with one thing.

We’ve done ad campaigns. We’ve spent a significant amount of money here in the U.S. We’re doing campaigns in the U.K., Australia, Germany, in a handful of markets. That’s one positive thing. That’s a step in the right direction to go out and admit fully our mistakes, take full accountability, and be transparent about what we’re doing. So that definitely helped, but it’s not the only thing. You can’t just run an ad campaign.

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