Thinking further ahead: GDPR and e-Privacy head-head with MarTech

The rise of data-driven marketing in recent years has sky-rocketed as the ability of technology to generate, capture and process data across every potential engagement axis has followed Moore’s Law of exponential growth.

On the one hand, we now have more technology and insight than ever before. On the other, we have new restrictions on capturing, managing and using data. GDPR and e-Privacy regulations are an attempt to rebalance the equation in favour of the consumer, both in terms of seeking permission for what data is held on them and but also in terms of the consequences for misuse of that data. The spectrum of misuse ranges from data breaches at one end to non-consensual direct communication at the other.  The old adage ‘to ask permission is to seek denial’ is the antithesis of GDPR compliant thinking.

I heard an example of the inexorable march of technology on the radio just the other day, discussing the future of retailing and suggesting that the level of personalisation as seen in the film Minority Report, is not far away. For those that missed it, Tom Cruise walks into a store, is recognised by the systems and greeted by a hologram that then references a previous purchase. Clearly, some of the technology that could enable that kind of interaction has just gone mainstream with the introduction of the iPhone X.

Whether we are talking this level of 1-1 personalised marketing in the physical world or the online world, it is clearly dependant on personally identifiable data, all of which is subject to GDPR. Powerful algorithms can already predict a huge range of behaviours from relatively few data points. Perhaps consumers will be happy to be as free with their data as they seem to be with a host of existing apps and services, each requesting access, with privacy statements in small print, to everything from location to health and exercise stats. Consumers are now expecting personalisation in their communications, it’s just a question of how far along the spectrum they want to draw the line.

The advice from Clayden Law at the European Sponsorship Association GDPR event that we spoke at recently, was that brands not only need to ask for freely given, positive and unambiguous consent to communicate with audiences, but they also need to be clear and transparent about what data they are capturing throughout the relationship.

Fan engagement, and more generally, audience engagement are key indicators of progress in both marketing and sponsorship. The combination of rich-content and data-driven approaches are hugely powerful in targeting and nurturing audiences, by crafting and refining messages to spark conversation and drive engagement. I think this will continue, perhaps with a change of emphasis, a few additional process steps and a pause in the conversation while we ask permission.

So, short-term we need to brush up our privacy statements and ensure we have consent and transparency. Once the hiatus for compliance settles and marketing teams get used to new ways of operating, in the medium-term we will begin to see how the paradox plays out between technology and data and new expectations regarding privacy.