Mindshare UK’s Alexis Faulkner on Russian Disinformation; Data Location; and Talent Shortages

Alexis Faulkner, chief digital officer, Mindshare UK, joins ExchangeWire’s Mat Broughton and Rachel Smith to discuss disinformation in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, measures to prevent mobile location data transactions, and the disruption caused by US talent shortages.


- Disinformation has been, and continues to be, a key component to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Vladimir Putin’s government maintaining that Russian forces have entered the country in order to “liberate” their neighbour. Such false narratives pre-date the invasion, which began on 24th February, with fabricated photos and videos claiming to depict Ukrainian forces attacking Russia circulating online and being broadcast by Kremlin-backed news outlets.

Whilst fact-checkers have debunked the authenticity of this material, the campaign shows no signs of stopping. But Ukraine is continuing to fight back – president Volodymyr Zelensky has actively disproved rumours spread by Russian state media that he had fled the country by giving a passionate speech in front of the Bankova in a video that was then posted to social media. Mr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have persistently sought to quash the Kremlin’s propaganda by posting updates on the conflict to their own social channels, with foreign minister Dmytro Kubela urging his Twitter followers not to believe accusations made by Russia that Ukraine has committed human rights abuses.

Whilst much of the world is well aware of Putin’s tactics, some believe the propaganda, which is being spread through instant messaging apps (notably Telegram) where it is shielded from moderators by end-to-end encryption. This ability to propagate disinformation with little risk of it being disputed or removed (as is possible on social media platforms) means that, despite Ukrainian officials’ efforts, it may be harder to disprove the Kremlin’s lies amongst those most susceptible to them.   


- Not enough is being done to clamp down on mobile location data transactions, a lucrative and, in the US, legal business that violates consumer privacy. Data locations experts and workers have reported that mobile OS leaders Apple and Google’s (who have been left to govern this estimated USD $12m market) approach of cracking down on data brokers that sell software development kits (SDKs) to app developers for the transfer of data location have proved limited and easy to undermine.

Whilst both tech giants have policies for developers who sell user data, it remains unclear whether, and indeed how, either actually enforces them. Despite Apple stipulating that developers receive users’ consent to collect data, and that they reveal what information they’re collecting and how it will be used, the iPhone maker does not force developers to disclose who they’re sharing it with. Google imposes the same policy, with the additional step of explicitly banning the sale of user data, but, like Apple, they do not indicate how they prevent other methods of illicit data sharing. Both companies maintain that they do not tolerate data sharing that violates their policies.

According to insiders, data brokers are increasingly forging deals with developers to obtain user data directly, also referred to as “server-to-server” transfers. Whilst Google and Apple could clamp down on this by imposing new policies requiring developers to reveal who they’re sharing data with, doing so would still rely on the developers acting in good faith; it will take more regulation, like the GDPR, for real change to come about, say researchers. 


- CMOs in the US fear that shortages in talent and ongoing supply-chain issues could disrupt growth over the next year. That’s according to the third annual CMO survey conducted by fractional CMO specialists Chief Outsiders, which found that over 42% of those surveyed anticipate a scarcity of labour to be the biggest impediment to progress, whilst over 29% ranked supply chain difficulties as the biggest disruptor. Gathering and managing first-party B2B and B2C data are also key challenges for CMOs, with owned websites and social media channels and marketing technology (such as CRM systems) proving the most useful in both cases.

The possibility of new covid measures proved less of a concern amongst the more than 60 CMOs, with less than 6% placing it as the biggest threat to progress. However, the long-term effects of the pandemic on the industry are clear, sparking the “great resignation” that has seen significant migration of talent away from marketing and contributing in no small part to the supply-chain issues. Consumer consciousness of environmental issues has also risen amidst covid, and over 83% of CMOs say they should be spearheading the definition and activation of brands’ ESG strategies.

When it comes to CEOs’ expectations, the survey found that most CMOs say their chief executives (50%) want them to make setting the growth agenda their top priority, followed by lead generation (21.43%). The lowest expectation is for CMOs to focus on building their businesses’ digital capabilities (3.57%). The research also found that fractional CMOs have become more widely accepted in business, with no respondents saying there’s scepticism towards the concept of employing a part time chief marketing officer.