WhyFive’s recent BrandMapp SA Lifestyle Survey caught the attention of many due to its huge size, in-depth questions and the time it took to fill in. But did it flout any privacy regulations?
Absolutely not, says Brandon de Kock, director of storytelling at WhyFive Insights. The company utilises an anonymous database where the data points are not connected to personalised anchors such as names or contact details, he says.
“Our business has nothing to do with ‘lists of names and details’ and everything to do with impersonal data, much like the establishment surveys that have underpinned the media industry in this country for decades,” he explains. “The survey is 100% compliant not only with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) guidelines, but also SAMRA guidelines, which are even more stringent.”
Because of this disconnect, the research does not infringe on POPI legislation or common law, media law consultant, Emma Sadleir, confirms. “Some provisions of POPI have become effective but not all of them. So POPI is not yet a consideration … but as soon as information is anonymised then you fall outside the realm of privacy law or personal information law. Personal information by its very nature needs to attach to a person,” she says.
Consent is a factor
Consent is also a factor, she adds, as people are willingly giving information about themselves. De Kock also put forward this reasoning. “In order to create such a database that could be used for commercial purposes, respondents must knowingly and specifically sign up or opt in to do so – and even then, you have to abide by POPI rules to protect their data.”
Since POPI has not come into effect yet, it does not apply to the survey, but De Kock emphasised that WhyFive acted as if the POPI regulations were already in force.
Survey respondents were asked for their names and email addresses, but this was only so that they could be entered into prize draws or to receive free digital magazine subscriptions, incentives for them to work through the 40-45 minute survey. If respondents did not opt in then their email addresses and names were deleted after the prizes were drawn. If they did opt in then their name and email addresses were stored for involvement in future surveys, but these are kept separate from the rest of their responses. These responses are sold by WhyFive, but these are anonymous insights.
Other privacy precautions that WhyFive took with this survey included:
- Only opt-on databases being used (no one was coerced or forced into responding)
- Every sensitive question (including race and sexuality) had an option for respondents to not provide the answer
- If respondents did not answer a specific question, the data was labelled as missing, not autofilled based on inferences
- Consumers can see or revisit their answers
- The collected data sits on a secure, password-protected platform, accessible only to WhyFive’s research partners Columinate, who won’t share the raw data with anyone else. The info Columinate provides to WhyFive is stripped of all personal information and identifiable variables
- Consumers were told where WhyFive got their data from
- An unsubscribe link was provided at all times
The vastness of the survey
Aside from the privacy issue, an element that caught people’s attention was the size of the survey. Taking 40-45 minutes to complete, comprehensive information was gathered from the research. De Kock explains why this type of research is being done and why it is vital. “Given the death of AMPS and no branded view of the world for at least two years, and the lack of any robust alternatives for people seeking meaningful consumer insights – it’s one that’s well worth the effort … The purpose of BrandMapp is, and has always been, to provide marketers, brands and companies who target wealthy South Africans (above R10K monthly household income) with a data set that they can use to assist in making insight-driven strategic decisions.”
Logistics of the survey
Online was chosen as the method because, as De Kock explains, “the survey was able to reach a segment of the market that’s hard to find with a clipboard and a printed questionnaire.” Two NGOs, two member organisations and nine media companies were partnered with to host the survey and promote it among their networks. In return these partners receive insights gained from the research. A major benefit is that it has been built on six previous years of learnings, something which De Kock says has allowed BrandMapp to “achieve a far greater result than we had hoped for in 2017.” In field for just over three weeks, BrandMapp managed to secure a clean and sorted, complete’ respondent sample (those who completed the whole 45 minute survey) of 28 274 South African adults.
Funding such a massive task
When asked how this survey was funded (with the assumption being that different brands paid for different parts of the research), De Kock surprisingly revealed that no sections or any part of the survey was funded by brands and that WhyFive Insights is 100% responsible for the funding. “Our only commercial partner in 2017 was a non-profit company: the Publisher Research Council. Peter Langschmidt of the PRC commissioned us to expand our already comprehensive media interrogation to include a variety of frequency, behavioural and perspective questions that would allow us to produce a groundbreaking piece of work to support the PRC’s ongoing efforts to help the country’s leading media groups,” De Kock says.
Read to remember: The BrandMapp 2017 Print Media Report is due for public release before the end of April.
Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @MichaelBratt8