5 Key Ways GDPR Will Impact Digital Advertising

It’s been a crazy year for digital marketers.
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Since the news of potential voter manipulation by data firm Cambridge Analytica broke early this year, the question of data ownership has been turned around and looked at from a number of new angles. The European Union, for its part, responded quickly with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect on May 25.

You’ve probably been getting a lot of emails with updates to privacy policies. This is why. Because any company that markets to people in the EU has to immediately get their data houses in order, it seems like some of the bigger companies are implementing something like GDPR as a blanket policy.

Marketers are going to have to get their houses together, too. The age of tight targeting may be coming to a close, unless, of course, your audience is happy to consent to risking the type of manipulation they may have once believed wasn’t possible.


GDPR is Already Impacting Digital Advertising

The very fact that this article is being published says a lot about how terrified marketers are of GDPR. Part of the fear is certainly just how fast the legislation was enacted. No one really had time to review it in-depth, aside from those EU lawmakers whose job it is to keep these things moving.

And though it may be a serious blow to the way marketing worked prior to May 25, there’s never as much fall-out from these kinds of things as people imagine. The sky isn’t falling, it’s just changing. For marketers, maybe the impact is a bit to the worse, but for their segments, it’s going to be a bit better.


What Are 5 Ways GDPR Will Change Advertising?

When it comes to GDPR, the most important thing you have to keep in mind is user consent.

That data is now officially owned by that citizen of the EU, so there’s nothing you can do but ask permission to use it. There will ultimately be people who liked things like retargeting and site pixels that will give you the thumbs up. You made it easy for them to buy what they needed without an exhaustive online search.

But for many others, the thought that someone had all their most personal data and used it so nefariously is just too much. They’re not ready. This is a place where marketers have to rebuild trust with audiences, otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board entirely.


Both types of people are going to be in any given mix, and advertising is going to change. Here are some examples of what these changes might look like:


  1. Foregoing behavioral targeting for good. Will marketers simply say, ‘it was fun while it lasted” and forget everything they gained with behavioral targeting because of the depth of data that’s involved? Unlikely. What’s more likely to happen is that marketers will find enticing ways to get users to opt-in to a similar amount of data collection as they had in the past. This will take time, though, because of the fractured trust discussed above. More transparency and a consumer-friendly approach will be required.


  1. GDPR consultants will be in demand big time. Until everyone has figured out what part of their system is breaking the GDPR, there will be a huge need for experts to help. Considering how many marketing firms there are out there and how many advertisers are on Facebook alone, this specialty may be worth hiring on full time if your budget can bear it.


  1. Opt-ins and opt-outs will be regulated. Right now, it doesn’t look like your opt-ins or opt-outs for consumer data sharing are clearly defined by the GDPR, instead, they sort of exist in a gray area. But there are already companies trying to trick consumers into opting-in to sharing data without their full knowledge and making it near impossible to find the button to opt-out again. This isn’t going to stand for long, the whole point of the GDPR is to protect EU citizens from this very type of behavior.


  1. Consumer data is going to become portable, making it a less attractive commodity. Back in May, users had no control over where their data was and certainly couldn’t move it to a different platform or remove it entirely if they so desired. Granting that level of control is the bulk of the GDPR’s goal. In the current climate, it may end up doing two things at once: first, the demand for this type of data will drop dramatically because it’s so much more random rather than representative and secondly, clients and marketers alike will be less interested in collecting data at all because it is a costly and tedious process that may be totally fruitless if users decided to walk.


  1. Advertisers will move more ad spend to streaming television. Hey, TV and radio ads are still totally viable ways to connect with potential customers. It’s a scattershot approach compared to behavioral targeting, but various streaming channels have the potential to make it easier to target specific groups than cable or network television ever could.


How Does This All End?

Ultimately, every marketer is engaged in an epic struggle to convince their audience that whatever is for sale is desperately needed and the time to buy is now. Whether consumers own their own data or not, there’s always someone forging a new route into their most personal places to drop a gentle hint.

The great challenge of advertising is taking a concept and adapting it to the current environment. Marketers worth their salt don’t sit on their hands, they’re too busy keeping up and moving forward. Today it’s GDPR, tomorrow it will be something else. The circle of life in marketing and advertising continues.