Editor’s note: Erin Norman is senior solutions consultant, public policy, at research firm Heart+Mind Strategies, Reston, Va. 

The revelation that Cambridge Analytica, through Facebook, was able to gain access to millions of users’ data gave the average American a glimpse into the world of digital and social media advertising. Most did not like what they saw. For years, platforms like Facebook have been letting advertisers and back-end developers access personal information from accounts as part of their effort to help brands deploy highly targeted campaigns.

The backlash against the social giants and digital advertisers during this scandal has likely given brands pause about how to allocate digital marketing dollars. In fact, even before news broke about Facebook data practices, Fortune 100 brands were reconsidering their digital spending. In 2017, Proctor & Gamble cut $200 million from digital media advertising and reallocated it to other channels including TV, audio and e-commerce in an effort to “reevaluate its marketing spend and weed out spend that is ineffective.” The company cited “brand safety” as a key concern with current digital advertising. More to the point, by reallocating this spend, they increased their reach by 10 percent.

Unilever CMO Keith Weed also made comments earlier this year about the need for “walled gardens,” or closed platforms that give brands little control over their content and access to consumers, to integrate with third-party measuring systems to ensure companies and brands are getting the media reach they are paying for. This is in process but not yet complete.

However, when this measurement rollout is complete, and brands feel confident in what they are getting for their ad spend, will social media platforms – some of the most attractive walled-gardens – still be worth the effort?

While social media use has been climbing over the last decade, most pla...