Is Your Marketing Stack Safe from GDPR Disruptions?

May 28, 2019

We are entering a new and critical phase of how the European Union’s General Data Protection Rule will impact advertising and marketing. The Reuters news agency reported that the top regulator for GDPR in the EU has opened an investigation into how Google manages personal data for advertising and targeting. This comes on top of a rising tide of GDPR complaints against various adtech companies in the European Union.

The Google probe, however, cuts to the core of how the modern advertising and marketing engine works by asking the simple question - is it OK that Google can collect so much data about users very quickly and then allow others to use that data to target ads and build profiles? The fines can range up to nearly 5% of revenues, a steep price for violations.

Competing Browser Complaint Cuts to the Core

The new investigation appears to be based in part on a complaint filed by the upstart browser Brave. Brave’s complaint claimed Google and other large websites were violating user privacy by sharing key details of what users do online with hundreds of companies without ever notifying the user.

This latest probe could potentially impact all advertising and marketing reliant on web profiles, including B2B campaigns. B2B campaigns and advertising are less in the crosshairs to date because they benefit less from granular personal information but as more and more B2B advertising becomes algorithmic and programmatic, B2B campaigns could easily get caught up in the probes.

GDPR Disruption and Your B2B Marketing Stack

Here’s what B2B marketers need to think about in case this probe causes disruptions to the advertising ecosystem.

  • Expect a disruption. It’s likely to happen. Given the growing momentum of GDPR in Europe, you should expect that some of your ad targeting capabilities will be reduced or at least under intense scrutiny in the next two years. That could present some business and reputation risk.
  • Evaluate which parts of your marketing engine are more or less vulnerable to GDPR disruption. Understand where your risks lie. For example, if you running AdWords, obviously, that would be a primary risk. Same case for your retargeting. But what if you have a detailed ABM workflow that relies on third-party targeting which, in turn, relies on Google data? Or if you are using emailing to drive clicks that feed through Google Analytics? In other words, this is a good excuse to gain a greater understand of how all the pieces of your marketing engine fit together.
  • Be ready to shift resources and change your plan on a dime. The CEO might be empathetic if your ad targeting rug is pulled out from under your demandgen team. But you still gotta hit that quarterly number. Perhaps you can dial up events and shift to more direct mail combined with email?
  • Identify places new ways to market in case you lose access to some of your tools and capabilities. Often demandgen and marketing teams can take these types of threats as a queue to review new types of advertising and marketing. For example, on the heels of GDPR, we have seen numerous companies come to us to evaluate email signature banners as a new, effective and economical owned media channel. The average company of 500 employees sends out anywhere between 1 million and 10 million emails per day, depending on volumes. This can translate into real returns; by our calculations, even a 500 person company would reap the equivalent of $100,000 in ad impressions by implementing signature banners (this is a conservative estimate because your emails are, by default, highly targeted just like the most expensive retargeted ads on LinkedIn). The GDPR-risk for email signatures and signature marketing is well-defined and easier to control that risk for personalization over third-party and massively aggregated advertising networks.

Hopefully this post has helped you think through some of the real implications that ongoing GDPR probes might have on B2B marketing stacks. We appreciate any feedback you might have on this post or others that we write.

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