The GDPR: the driving force behind creative advertising

The months and weeks before its introduction, businesses – and particularly the media industry –scrambled to meet the GDPR legislation. Marketers and advertisers knew that their heavy reliance on collecting and using personal data in ad campaigns would have to change. In fact, a study released after GDPR-day showed that marketers felt the regulation would impact how they use third-party data to target people.

One year on, rather than bemoaning GDPR as a challenge, brands, advertisers and agencies are displaying a readiness and willingness to clean up their data practices. GDPR effectively gave companies the opportunity to tighten their stranglehold and use privacy as an appeal to the public, guiding consumers to ‘opt in’. We are still witnessing changes not only within the industry but also across boutique brands and larger advertising ecosystems. But those changes are positive for the industry and positive for consumers.

A rebirth of targeted advertising

GDPR has allowed a rethink of what targeting looks like and how it is done. Companies have had to move towards advertising that isn’t overly personal or intrusive, and it’s forcing brands to think about cohorts rather than individuals. As we leave mass personalisation in the past, brands will find specific cohorts much more useful; it’s not just about targeting, it’s analysing the behaviour of profitable customer cohorts that is the gold in the advertising mine.

The level of targeting has now been elevated and algorithms are instead being trained to understand the contextual placements that work best for specific cohorts. In my view, this is exactly how we should be using data in advertising.

Data first, message second

Data is now the thread of all good advertising thanks to GDPR. If a brand’s data is centred around the individual and stored in a single place, brands can now get a view of what is happening across the customer journey as well as in campaigns. The ability to bring this data together and create groups and cohorts is vitally important. It’s changing the order of play; the big creative message historically came first, and we then found audiences to show it to. Now the smart brands are using their data to discover previously unknown customer needs, and then they build new products and creative messaging to meet these needs.

We can now deliver advertising and messaging at a brand level that would never have been possible before. This level of insight cannot be achieved by humans alone, and therefore needs machine learning to provide the ‘uncommon insight’ that humans don’t see.

Take Easter as an example. Retailers sell thousands of products and they know the ones that typically sell best. By fusing first and third-party data, smart retailers have uncovered new behaviours and needs of consumers during the Easter period. This can aid the entire creative process during one of the biggest periods in the calendar, driving engagement and ultimately sales.

The debate of art vs science is gone

GDPR will be the driving force behind the creation of more compelling, engaging content for consumers. Before the regulation, we saw a huge focus on micro-targeting but GDPR has removed this overly personal focus on data and forced brands to rethink their approach to data.

Importantly, data has now become an aid to creativity and understanding contextual placements better. Patterns and insights can be discovered in data and applied to campaigns at every level – to aid both brand building and sales activation. The next step and challenge will be working with creative teams to demonstrate the value of this new insight, so they can create campaigns that help solve customer needs.  The days of magical creative have not gone, but surely the GDPR can help brands gain an advantage to deliver better work.

By Ben Rickard, Chief Digital and Data Officer at MediaCom

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