Marketing and Research Consulting for a Brave New World
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It feels like the zombie apocalypse has hit contemporary marketing. But it isn’t a virus like on the show Walking Dead…it is GDPR (EU’s General Data Protection Regulation).

Prominent difficulties so far caused by GDPR…

  • Google’s decision to no longer pass Doubleclick IDs in log files over to marketers and their MTA (multi-touch attribution) providers, challenging a whole sector of analytics that represents the future of efficient digital marketing.
  • Programmatic inventory in Europe is reported to have declined by 25-40% since GDPR went into effect.
  • EU consumers have lost access to those US publishers who are blocking EU IPs from accessing their sites. Some publishers are creating premium ad free versions.
  • A windfall for lawyers. Billions are going into GDPR compliance legal advice.

Some articles have declared the apocalypse…did Google just kill attribution? Others suggest that we should give up on targeting and focus on context-based marketing or just go back to good old mass marketing.

SHOULD you give up on data-driven marketing and precision targeting?

No! Giving up on programmatic targeting is becoming a marketing zombie.  I was shocked to see a blog in HBR that actually suggested context-based marketing was a substitute for targeting segments!  Then, I saw the same nonsensical commentary in MediaPost!  Let’s be clear, while context-based media placement is a needed part of a holistic plan for building return on ad spend, it cannot contribute as much as precision targeting can.  There is no evidence that any other strategy can consistently boost marketing ROI 5-10X the way targeting buyer groups can (as per my white paper, “The Persuadables”.) And the good news for CPG marketers is that, at least in the US, GDPR has not prevented using frequent shopper data for targeting  (as per IRI comments at an ARF event yesterday).

Just like there are ways to survive any apocalypse (ask Rick, Eugene and Carol), permit me to share some tips to preserve efficient and effective marketing practices in a digital age, even with GDPR.

(And let me be clear, this is marketing advice NOT legal advice!)

  1. Do not give up on targeting! But make sure you are leveraging fully permissioned data.  The safest routes are first party data, frequent shopper data (in the US or in China), Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and anyone else who has registration-based user databases. Your legal team will need a position for marketing on what constitutes GDPR compliance for data aggregators, then interrogate. I’m sure many will pass muster but you must ask.
  2. Do not give up on MTA. Numerous MTA providers are creating their workarounds for no longer being able to access Doubleclick IDs (and investing heavily to do so). But some are not.  You must interrogate your (potential) MTA provider on their GDPR response plan and use them only if it is acceptable. Do not give up on the power of linking user level ad serving to conversions even if it means putting data into one of the big ad hubs.
  3. Temporarily replace the notion of “global practices” with “best practices available”.  The US and China (to name two markets) are probably the biggest markets in the world for many marketers and do not have the same GDPR restrictions.
  4. Don’t revert to top down, “mass media first” marketing. Evidence suggests that what I call “the waterfall”, can lead to doubling marketing ROI. That means start with the most productive segment, saturate them, then move on to the next priority and the next.  There will still be plenty of money left over for linear TV but you will find it produces much less waste in your digital spending.

Finally, marketers, publishers, and Adtech, you created GDPR by not self-policing well enough and by not telling your story to consumers effectively enough.  Precision targeting based on digital breadcrumbs sounds like Big Brother but it really is not…it is a way of assuring that advertising is more relevant and welcomed as content rather than always annoying.  We better learn how to tell that story or this might get worse.

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