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GDPR Should Be Hailed in an Industry Increasingly Moving Online

When it was first introduced, GDPR was considered by many in the publishing, media and advertising to be a regulatory revolution. Almost nine months on, and it has certainly changed the face of how brands access, handle and store their consumers’ data. While companies rushed to achieve compliance with GDPR, the true extent of the regulation remains to be seen; with regulators just beginning to hand out major fines in the post-GDPR era. So, as we all wait with bated breath for more regulatory enforcement, how are brands and advertisers continuing to tackle the challenges that come with the complexity that the GDPR has added, to an already complex media landscape.

GDPR: A paradigm shift for digital advertising

At its core, advertising is all about making a connection with your audience (your potential customers). With the explosion of online media and digital platforms, marketers were faced with more avenues than ever before to reach customers using programmatically placed adverts. Enter GDPR. Programmatic is driven by the open, unfettered access to user data. GDPR created rules, which interrupted this steady data stream for marketers, not only in Europe, but across the globe. Yet, while many were quick to bemoan the new data restrictions, we’ve seen the regulation bring with it vast shifts in brands’ approaches to data processes and a whole new level of transparency — something which can only be considered a positive for the industry.

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The five stages of GDPR grief

Interestingly, the five stages of grief are an apt representation of how the industry responded to GDPR. First, there was a lot of chatter about the necessity of the regulation, and widespread denial of the disruption that it would bring. In fact, research from IBM in May last year found that only 36% of firms would meet the deadline, a clear sign that businesses were choosing to ignore its existence until the very last minute.

People questioned its impact and very quickly moved to stages two and three: anger and bargaining. The anger may have been short-lived, but bargaining was longer-lasting: many brands debated exactly what the regulation would mean for them. For example, what does ‘consent’ entail, and where does the responsibility for consumer data lie in the media supply chain.

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Thankfully, we didn’t see much depression within the industry, but an acceptance of the situation and a shift in perspective. Many quickly acknowledged the positives that GDPR would bring; from strengthening relationships with existing customers, to the chance to put high-quality creative content front and center in advertising campaigns.

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GDPR means smarter, more targeted ads

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the enforcement of GDPR, we can all certainly see the impact it has had on the digital advertising landscape. It has changed the way that advertisers interact with audiences and given brands a chance to stand up for and promote a much safer, secure and transparent data process.

Brands that have put in the resources and effort to establish a legal basis to process their customers’ data are the ones that are reaping the benefits. Effective programmatic advertising is reliant on data. But with more control and accountability across the board – which GDPR has delivered in spades – brands are tapping into the data that matters. This means they can paint a more accurate picture of their customers and create meaningful, engaging marketing messages.

The future will only bring more regulation, we must prepare now

As 2019 promises to bring only more complexity in the form of impending regulations (for example the ePrivacy Regulation), and while we may all be waiting to see the outcome of regulators’ enforcement actions of the law, it’s crucial that brands continue to focus on getting their GDPR approach right. If 2018 was the year of transparency, we can certainly expect this focus to intensify for 2019.

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