It’s been over a year since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became a law across the European Union. The European Parliament first adopted GDPR in April 2016 to replace the outdated data protection directive from 1995, which was created when the internet was still in its infancy.
While the motivation and idea behind GDPR is positive and a step in the right direction for the industry, it’s clear that the execution has not been perfect. In truth, GDPR is costing significant financial and mental capital.
For starters, it set a new minimum bar (or bare minimum) for companies to meet or exceed. Before GDPR went into effect, some brands and advertisers may have been going above and beyond that bar, but now there is no incentive or inspiration to do more. The “good actors” -- consumer-centric brands and responsible advertisers -- will continue to do right by their customers, which may or may not include going the extra mile or just simply meeting the minimum requirements. On the other side of this are the “bad actors” who are still operating as they were before GDPR but flying under the radar.
So, how is all of this affecting consumers?
The GDPR Paradox
Ironically, the advent of GDPR has likely led to an increase in the amount of unwanted advertising and poorly targeted messages that consumers have to wade through. Bad actors, undaunted by the principles of GDPR, are still relying on flawed marketing tactics and inefficient campaigns with less-targeted, non-personal messages, which is the very downfall of brand loyalty -- any customer who’s been bombarded by irrelevant ads at the wrong time can attest to that.
Not only does GDPR make more work for consumers with an influx of unwanted, untargeted ads and the extra clicking to accept new privacy policies and terms of agreement (only for them to remain unread like the ones that came before), it also creates a false sense of security for consumers that bad actors have exploited for their own gain.
Yet, despite all of this, research continues to show that even though privacy concerns do exist, customers are more than willing to provide their information in exchange for personalization -- 90 percent will share their data for better experiences, and 72 percent say they now only engage with marketing messages tailored to their interests.
In Mary Meeker’s "2019 Internet Trends Report," she notes that 91 percent of consumers prefer brands that provide personalized messages, and the majority say they are willing to share their data in exchange for personalized experiences.
The Transition To Transparency
So, where do brands and advertisers go from here? How do we continue to move the digital marketing industry forward toward a more ethical future?
The key is moving beyond privacy and embracing transparency and accountability. For forward-thinking brands looking to make the transition to true transparency and accountability, here are several tips to keep in mind:
• Brands must evolve past GDPR. Don’t accept GDPR as the finish line. It’s a good start, but if brands really want to prosper, they need to move toward transparency and communicate to customers the value of sharing their personal information.
• Get consumers hooked on personalization (and data sharing). Give customers a remarkably different experience when they do share their personal information with you versus when they don’t. If you create an amazing, high-quality, customized experience, you can hook your customers on personalization, and they will be more likely to share their data in exchange for an exceptional experience.
• Call out and combat fraud. Just because fraud has not affected your brand personally doesn't mean you can ignore it. We collectively have a responsibility, and every player in the industry must be accountable. When you see fraud in the marketplace, call it out (e.g., robocalls or something like Cambridge Analytica). When it comes to bad actors abusing personal data and consumer trust, we cannot put our heads in the sand.
Privacy initiatives are changing the digital marketing landscape. Before long, U.S. advertisers and brands will have to contend with more than just Europe’s GDPR -- a handful of states have proposed their own data regulations, including New York, New Jersey, Washington and Colorado, and the California Consumer Privacy Act is set to take effect in 2020. Innovative brands and progressive advertisers must invest the time and energy to commit to customer-centricity and evolve to transparency and accountability.