If advertisers and publishers can embrace the opportunities of Europe’s new data protection laws, the rewards may be great, writes Jamie Evans-Parker, chief executive and founder of wayve.
By now it’s almost impossible for any marketer on the planet to be unaware of the European Commission’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Due to come into force by 2018, the law extends the EU’s reach to any business that collects or stores the personal data of its citizens, making it applicable across the globe.
But the reports most marketers have heard focus heavily on concerns about the measures, painting a lopsided picture of what they might mean for the industry in the future. The key factor most fail to talk about is the potential these regulations have to strengthen the relationship between consumers, publishers, and advertisers.
So could the GDPR create a new era of digital advertising where the online value exchange is respected and understood? There is hope it just might.
Transparency as a route to trust
The new regulations will give users more control and clarity than ever before — stipulating that businesses must explain in simple terms exactly how their data is gathered and used, as well as gaining prior permission to do so. Yet there is no reason why this emphasis on total transparency should be viewed negatively, if anything it is most likely to create a new level of trust.
With a complete view of why their information is accessed and what it is utilised for, consumers will have a better understanding of the purpose and value of personalised ads. Any fears that tailored ads might be based on sensitive data will be dispelled and consumers will be free to enjoy ads without apprehension.
For marketers, this could present the ideal opportunity to ask consumers if they are willing to share more data in return for enhanced relevancy — last year the Data Marketing Association (DMA) found that trust was the most important consideration for 40% of consumers when deciding whether to share their personal data.
Not only would such open conversations help to give consumers greater choice, they may also enable marketers to repair and improve their audience relationships.
A boost for advertising creativity
There is a strong chance that with the mysteries of advertising and how data is utilised fully explained to the audience, expectations might be significantly higher. Now aware of the techniques that are used to transform their data into engaging and personal ads, consumers are even less likely to be accepting of practices such as retargeting — often seen as irrelevant, irritating and inappropriate.
“Consumers will have the right to request that their information is removed from marketing databases if its deployment is deemed to be invalid”
Indeed, for those who have opted to supply additional data, messages promoting long-abandoned purchases may be particularly unwelcome and lead consumers to question the legitimacy of data usage, as the new GDPR entitles users to do. Under the new regulations, consumers will have the right to request that their information is removed from marketing databases if its deployment is deemed to be invalid.
It is therefore probable that more stringent expectations from consumers will galvanise the industry into raising the overall standard of digital advertising. Assuring audiences that information is being put to good use will mean producing beautiful, tailored ads that blend insight with creativity to provide truly engaging experiences.
Reduced demand for ad blockers
So with the prospect of a deeper bond between consumers, publishers and advertisers, more appreciation of the part ads play in the online ecosystem, and better advertising quality, the power of the GDPR could be great indeed.
If all of these possibilities were to become realities, the regulation may have a greater impact on the ad blocking issue than any initiative has had so far. With fewer privacy concerns and a reduction in the quantity of interruptive ads, consumers might feel positively enough about digital ads to abandon their blockers.
As IAB research shows, interruption and irrelevance are the key causes for ad blocking, driving 73% and 46% of adoption amongst UK users respectively. But if these objections could be remedied, audiences would be willing to consider an ad-inclusive online experience — 45% of consumers said they would be less likely to block non-intrusive ads and 30% would switch off blockers for more relevant ads. Thus superior ads that use data sensitively could help reduce demand for blockers.
Up until now, the GDPR conversation has been dominated with speculation about the possibility of negative ramifications. But it’s time to change course and shift the industry focus onto the many benefits it could create.
If advertisers and publishers can embrace the opportunities presented by the new laws, they will likely be rewarded with unexpected results. With the potential to build more trust, better understanding and engaging, high-quality ads, it may be that the GDPR is the start of something beautiful for both marketers and consumers.