The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) has rescinded the David Ogilvy Award given to Cambridge Analytica, the now defunct research firm accused of harvesting Facebook user data, in the competition's "big data" category in 2017.

Scott McDonald, president/CEO of the ARF – which holds the Ogilvy Awards each year to recognise excellence in research – revealed it was annulling the prize handed out to Cambridge Analytica while speaking at a conference held by the trade body.

“This decision was not taken lightly,” he told delegates attending the ARF’s 2019 AUDIENCExSCIENCE event in Jersey City, New Jersey. (For more details, read WARC's in-depth report: ARF slams Cambridge Analytica, drives toward new codes and standards for research.)

“It was the product of deep and careful consideration of the evidence revealed in multiple official investigations in the US and the UK.”

The news that Cambridge Analytica had harvested data from millions of Facebook profiles originally emerged in early 2018, roughly a year after the 2017 Ogilvy Awards were handed out.

As a growing body of evidence about the company’s activity became public, so the ARF has been able to reach an informed decision about whether its Ogilvy Award victory should be scrubbed out.

“In the judgement of the ARF Board, the preponderance of evidence indicates that Cambridge Analytica was not fully transparent in its Ogilvy application, and, as such, acted in a way that was antithetical to industry ethics,” said McDonald.

“As such,” the ARF chief asserted, “the Board exercised its right to withdraw the award.”

The ARF’s creation of a new Code of Conduct for the research industry was also linked in part to the scandal that enveloped Cambridge Analytica both in the political community and among marketing researches alike.

“About one year ago,” McDonald said, “we organised an open forum to discuss matters of data ethics, privacy and security.”

The first action step from that session was the creation of a working committee – headed by Paul Donato, the ARF’s chief research officer – charged with drafting a set of principles (that would become the new Code of Conduct) to recommend best practices to the research, insights and analytics functions at ARF member companies.

When the ARF’s Board voted to approve the committee’s recommendations and adopted the Code, its next act was to void the Cambridge Analytica honour for behaviour that McDonald described as “inconsistent with – even antithetical to – the ethics enshrined in the new Code.”

Sourced from WARC