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GDPR Five Years On: Striking the Balance Between Privacy and Personalization

Cast your mind back to the events of 2018. The World Cup, the Winter Olympics, and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle may come to mind, but there is one event that sticks out for marketers: the onset of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU. 

Stating that consumer data can be used only if that individual gives explicit permission, the GDPR cast a shadow on virtually all o*************** activity. And with fines of €20 million or 4% of global revenues, almost every company trading in the EU was forced to assess its operations. While some saw the GDPR’s potential for aggregating and utilizing customer data, others were left unsure about how they would continue marketing without the same access to customer data that they had grown used to.

A five-year evolution

Over the past half decade, GDPR has had a huge impact on the industry. It’s led to fines being dished out to many of the biggest names in tech, including a €746 million fine to Amazon and a €1.2 b****** fine to Meta for the processing of personal data. It’s also inspired a number of similar regulations across the globe, including the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US. These tightening regulations have also had an effect on customer attitudes, with individuals now more aware of their own privacy rights.

As a result, marketers have experienced major signal loss when it comes to engaging audiences with precision. On top of GDPR, Apple’s policies around app tracking and Google’s plans to disable third-party cookies are contributing to data depreciation. This leaves far less room for marketing personalization, a key aspect of moving customers through the purchase funnel. 

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Balancing privacy with personalization

As things stand today, it’s clear that the best way forward is in building direct relationships with customers and obtaining clear consent to communicate with them. Marketers can work with platforms to use this first-party data for ad targeting and measurement. And these audience segments can be expanded through lookalike modelling and probabilistic identity resolution to reach a wider universe.

But the days of relying on precision tracking are over. Over the past five years, the pendulum has swung back for o*************** with creative generating more incremental success for ad campaigns than pure media optimization. By investing in creative automation and personalization, marketers can ensure that consumers see relevant messaging based on a wide variety of signals beyond audience attributes – eg. context, timing, and weather – that are available without compromising user privacy.

Going forward in our post-GDPR landscape, marketers can turn consumer choice into strategic advantages. Beyond notices on websites, ensuring that every communication touchpoint – including ads – feature proper disclosures. In so doing, brands will establish loyalty and ultimately drive long-term business growth.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com] 

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