“Strategies need to be re-thought, services re-designed and business plans re-written”, as we wrote in the very first post of this series. Nowhere does this ring more true than in the advertising business. Still, General Data Protection Regulation won’t be the end of the world. Practically all of the changes to data-driven advertising take place under the hood of data-driven systems, and unless the consumer actually decides to take an active role in managing his digital footprint and information profile, very little will change. Advertising in 2018 will look quite a bit like it does now, technological innovations and platform changes notwithstanding.
That said, the devil is in the details. Modern digital marketing ecosystems collect data from several sources allowing companies to identify their consumers. In terms of privacy, it might be better to keep all this data separate but with the possibility to de-anonymize data, issues like consent management and restrictions concerning data collection on minors will come back to haunt us. Data security requirements will impose major restrictions on how collected data can be accessed, maintained and shared, even within the organization. The legal framework of using and assessing third-party data providers is murky, especially since the responsibility for regulatory compliance now runs both ways in these partnerships. The rights to existing data, or how consent requests and de-anonymization might be applied to them retroactively, are yet to be investigated. These will probably have to be resolved on case-by-case basis. It is also likely that those who grab the bull by the horns and embrace the early challenges will have a say in how GDPR is to be applied in the long run. Thus, while the changes and challenges might be the same for everybody, the opportunities might not. Fortune favours the bold, or in some cases, early adopters.
But enough about threats, let’s explore the opportunities. For example, with GDPR, the private individual has the right to A) find out if the organization is keeping a data profile of her, B) see how that profile is defined, C) learn how the organization came up with these definitions, and D) to edit or erase those definitions in whole or in part. They will also have some say in how, or rather where, that profile data can be made available. While only a small fraction of consumers will be vigilant about their digital footprint, the option has to be there for everybody. By default, this requires a much higher fidelity of data than ever before. With this kind of data, target and interest group profiling can finally be done right down to the individual. This alone brings about a whole new age of targeted advertising. Furthermore, it will also be possible to analyze social networks in much greater detail and identify viral hubs, bridges and dead ends. Even with the option to edit your digital footprint and the right to be forgotten, the volume of data is likely to increase, not decrease. Individually targeted advertising will have a much higher response rate and real, or at least perceived, value to the consumer. Something experienced as a service will not be blocked.
This is a complicated issue and the future is uncertain as ever. The odds are that GDPR is hiding more than a few cans of worms. Yet, it is also an opportunity that no one can afford to miss. Advertisers have better things to do than to shift through EU legalese with an army of lawyers, so my recommendation would be to partner with somebody who can help you navigate the treacherous waters of GDPR. This is also why we founded Privago. We help companies manage their privacy and user data processing requirements. With our tools you can easily verify your regulatory compliance and bring your company up to speed on new rules and developments. Using our tools allows you to turn legal must-haves into brand assets. Consent management or opt-out features can be made into user-friendly features as part of your product and service. The authorities are putting heavy emphasis on data security and our real-time script audits will help you recognize, track down and prevent harmful data leakage.
Let me close with a cliché; Survival of the fittest was never about strength or resilience. It is about adaptability and opportunity. Let’s beat the others to it.