Digital marketing is in for an upheaval

As many of you know, I’ve been fascinated with the impact that GDPR is going to have on digital marketing. Personally, I see it as the end of digital marketing as we know it -and that’s a good thing. However, it’s essential for us to start to think about what life after GDPR will look like, even though some of us are still enjoying dancing on the grave of the old paradigm.

My operating theory remains that the trouble of complying with GDPR is going to be so time-consuming and onerous, that brands are going to merely import their post-GDPR marketing strategies to North America for fear of something similar happening here. (As it very well should.)

Quick GDPR Primer

So, in a nutshell:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the European Unions expansive privacy rights legislation
  • It stipulates that individuals -not companies- own their data
  • Online privacy and data privacy is a right
  • Virtually all data collected from an individual must be protected
  • The name of the game is “OPT-IN.” The individual submitting the data must explicitly authorize all communications and data usage
  • Consumers and individuals can -at any time- pull back their consent for data use
  • Consumers and individuals may request that their data be deleted or modified
  • Failure to comply can -and undoubtedly will- result in fines
  • GDPR isn’t just for businesses in the EU. If you have customers in the EU, it applies to you too

The future of digital marketing and advertising

GDPR Compliance, Privacy and the End of Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing is Dead. Long Live Privacy Marketing.   Digital marketing has been, for years now, the Wild West of marketing practices. Agencies and brands played fast and loose with the rules. The pursuit of the almighty dollar took the wheel, while user privacy and -in many cases- human decency was locked …

Kiss digital remarketing good-bye

Right now, if I visit a company website, there are dozens of technologies that can be deployed, so that company’s digital advertising follows me around the web. We’ve all experienced it. We go shopping for blue jeans on Amazon, and suddenly we see Amazon blue jeans ads everywhere. That’s called remarketing.

Well, remarketing is not voluntary. Consumers do not opt-in for them. Under EU regulations, this is going to be harder and harder to do -if not impossible.

And you know what? It should be. This stalking of consumers is an insult to what marketing is supposed to be. Marketing is about persuasion, not browbeating. We are supposed to convince clients that our message is valuable, not ram it down their throats.

Remarketing is just advertising equivalent of a guy not taking no for an answer after a first date.

Things have even gotten worse in the age of social media. Now, because of all the tracking social media platforms do on us, I can visit a company website on my computer, and their ads will appear in my social feed on my mobile!

Now there are ways around this. Google, for example, has already been deploying the use of targeted ads based on website content and location data. However, technically my IP address is considered personal data, and subject to GDPR. So how this is going to work in the long term remains to be seen.


Back from the dead: native advertising

GDPR offers the opportunity to resurrect a form of promotions that many people thought was dead: native advertising.

Most of the ads you see when you visit a site aren’t posted by the owners. Instead, they are “served” by third-party companies. These companies and their practices were one of the reasons GDPR is so strict on personal data protection.

For years, many of these companies have been harvesting, buying, selling, and renting personal data for better ad performance.

Not anymore. Now with, GDPR, we have the chance to bring back native advertising. Native advertising is ads served by the owners of the website you are viewing. This eliminates many GDPR privacy issues and helps content creators get a more significant chunk of the revenues from ad buys.

More sticky-content

With the risk of not being able to stalk their customers around the web, brands will be forced to develop more sticky-content for their apps and websites.

Sticky-content was a big thing a few years ago. Essentially, it is content that is so engaging that it causes the users to stay on a website or app longer.

Because it has been so easy to have your brand track down customers no matter where they go, the practice of sticky content has taken a bit of a back seat for the last several years.

I predict that sticky content is going to be back in a big way soon. Now, companies may not get another chance to sell to a website visitor, so keeping them engaged for as long as possible will be more critical as the months go on.

Put down the shotgun, and pick up the sniper rifle

Brands are finally going to be forced to be more careful with their digital marketing and digital advertising strategies. Instead of being able to target millions of people randomly because of lax privacy laws, companies will now have to do a lot of research into who should see their ads.

The analogy I use is the difference between a shotgun and a sniper rifle.

A shotgun can fire hundreds of pellets and hit a wide range of targets. Sometimes, it even hits what you were trying to aim for.

A sniper rifle can ONLY hit what you aim it at. And that’s what GDPR will bring back to advertising: the good old days of targeted, focused and researched digital advertising and digital marketing.

Some people think that the end of digital marketing as we know it is a bad thing. Not me. I think the increased respect for privacy and more regulations on personal data is critical to maintaining the integrity of the industry, and to protect the value of our clients’ brands.