The initial onslaught of hype, panic and surge in consultants offering advice on GDPR up to its official launch in May 2018 certainly made it feel, to marketers at least, like a massive constraint in marketing. We had just gotten used to phrases such as ‘big data’, ‘data science’ and ‘automation’.
We had been sold the hype of programmatic advertising, real time bidding and the use of behavioral economics with this creative art had becoming part science. Not just MADMEN but Math Men/Women/non-binary marketers.
The famous line, I think attributed to the former CEO of Coca Cola, of “I know 50% of my advertising is working and 50% isn’t, the problem is I just don’t which is which” or words to that affect, seemed like a thing of the past.
At that time, we realized we could know more about our customers than they or their friends and family knew, and we could market and sell to them in real time, for products they were about to need before they even knew it.
No more placing adverts with ad salespeople who couldn’t provide you with real data. We had the facts and we could better attribute our marketing budgets and precision target our customers.
Then came GDPR. This was a massive blow to the marketing industry, at least to start with, and the lack of clarity, understanding within the market and generally across Europe started to send shockwaves around the industry. This was only exasperated by Brexit and the confusion this caused into the mix for the UK marketing industry.
Not long after that came the news of Cambridge Analytica and the abuses and missuses, that all of us open eyed enough in the industry knew were possible, they had enjoyed and made money off in the wake of the US election and the UK referendum.
At this point the whole world started to wake up to the impact of the data we share as individuals with these social networks and others and how it can be abused. We marketers were caught like rabbits in the headlights.
Suddenly the shiny light of ‘big data’, ‘data science’ and ‘marketing automation’ was slightly dimmed and the industry became once again tarred by the brush meant for those few bad apples.
Falling in Love with GDPR
GDPR then became out bedrock. It became something we had to not only take seriously but build into everything we did with customer privacy and respect for their rights as a paramount concern.
Whilst some saw it as an unfair constraint on their creativity others saw it as an opportunity to do better. Do better by their customers but also get better at data collection, privacy and ‘one to one’ marketing.
So, to really answer the first part of this question is GDPR a constraint I would have to say yes. But I would have to say that it is a necessary constraint that forces us to do better by our customers and to take seriously the protection of their digital and data rights.
It is also an opportunity because it means we must up our game and it means businesses/organizations or causes where marketing has always been the poor cousin or where data was not seen as a priority are putting more resources behind this issue. They are improving how they collect data to ensure that they deliver a more personal ‘one to one’ permission-based relationship. This will no doubt improve conversion rates and move companies away from scattergun mass marketing to a more targeted and refined approach.
Do the legal constraints of GDPR have to impact on creativity?
The legal constraints with in GDPR around data collection and usage may at first seem like they impinge on the creative uses of data, but this is a false assumption. There is nothing within the law that stops true creativity instead it focuses this down into a more succinct art form.
There are multiple ways of being creative within frameworks of GDPR that would not impact on the laws.
Some of the best marketers have used GDPR as a selling and marketable point of their business/organization or cause. In the light of things like the Cambridge Analytica scandal they have been aware of how important and crucial this discussion over data protection has become and so by grasping hold of GDPR by both horns they have marketed this fact to their customer base. Even made it fun.
Along with impacts on the environment and other social factors, fair data usage is fast becoming a market differentiator of many companies.
To come back on the creative use data this again will depend on the creativity of the company/organization in question. Yes, it puts constraints in place, but they help fine tune the thinking environment around data collection and privacy. If done correctly this can make for closer, better customer relationships that are permission based as detailed in Seth Godin’s book Permission Marketing this should be seen as an opportunity for creativity not a constraint on it.
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