GDPR – a big opportunity for content marketers?

June 2nd, 2017

If you are a senior person involved in marketing, and if you’re reading this then it is pretty safe assumption, there is likely to be a big red mark on your calendar for May 25th next year.

In case you do need reminding, and according to a few recent surveys a few of you probably do, that is the day when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from the EU will come into force.

If it has passed you by until now, don’t worry too much as you will be hearing an awful lot about it over the following months.

Put simply GDPR will replace all existing UK data laws. And nope, Brexit won’t influence it at all as it will be subsumed in the Great Repeal Bill.

The importance of consent

From a media and marketing perspective GDPR’s big challenge is that the collection of the data which fuels the marketing and advertising industries will have to be consented to by readers. Now this may be fine for some brands and media companies who legally collect data via email and social platforms. What though of third parties who serve advertising? Those companies may have not had an interaction with the reader they are targeting and could from the end of May next year find themselves in breach of the act.

So, what might that consent request look like? Possibly like the consent for cookies popups we now happily accept.

Image result for gdpr pagefairNevertheless, there are two things that are worrying the ad industry. Firstly, that while consumers don’t seem too wary of cookies, they do have issues with being aggressively targeted by personal advertising. To put it in perspective PageFair, a company that regularly monitors the growth of ad blocking believes that over 20% of the population has already taken action and installed ad blocking software. Later this year Google will unveil its own ad blocker which will be baked into its Chrome web browser and target what the company deems obtrusive ads. So there is a strong possibility that some consumers, especially those with an understanding of privacy issues, will simply opt out of online behaviourally driven advertising systems.

What is even more bad news for marketers and advertisers is that the penalty for not complying is very severe. For example, the maximum fine for data breaches in the UK will rise from £500,000 to €20m, or 4% of a company’s global annual turnover, whichever is higher, which makes it even more pressing that brands and media companies play safely.

There are those in the industry already predicting massive changes to the way online media operates. Earlier this year, PageFair’s Dr Johnny Ryan warned that GDPR sets the stage for a “wave of lawsuits against all parties in the advertising chain. Users will have the right to trace data back to its source,” he said. “For example, a person who receives a marketing communication from a brand is now entitled to find out where the data on them has been obtained from, and can take legal action or complain to a regulator.”

There are others who take a less alarmist approach. Ben Davies at Econsultancy argues that for most marketers “best practices that have been identified for some years will likely be enough for marketing to fall in line, alongside one or two changes to your data strategy.”

But he also acknowledges “that publishers will certainly have to work with AdTech providers to make the right information available to users, whether in notifications (popups) or publicly available on site.”

So, if you are involved in digital marketing GDPR is a very real headache and one that you have just a year left to address. From installing a data protection officer for your company through to tracking where you got all that data you store from – there is a very big ‘to do’ list.

The good news for content creators

One things is for sure though and that is that GDPR is not going to be bad news for content marketers. Quite the contrary.

Over the last few years media companies have been investing more and more resources in branded content. The New York Times has the T Brand Studio, The Guardian has its Labs. Then there are of course CMA members from legacy magazine media backgrounds, like Time Inc, which has its own branded content factory in The Foundry.

The Foundry

From this vantage point GDPR feels like it could be a very big shot in the arm for content marketing as brands and publishers seek safe, compliant ways to target readers. And as all CMA members know high quality engaging content delivered in a sympathetic way is a very powerful of doing this.

Ultimately what might happen is that the ad industry will still be struggling to cope with the changes this time next year. Also, the draconian fines won’t necessarily be imposed and that compromises will be reached.

Brand and media companies, however, are going to be cautious in collecting and using data – and I really think this might be a trend that presents excellent opportunities to content marketers.

Commissioned by The CMA

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