sunset as viewed in a rearview mirror
PHOTO: Patrick Tomasso

While the rollout of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) caused an initial panic and revealed many brands were unready to comply, the initial impact of the law on the overall state of digital advertising seems to not to have been as drastic as some projected.

However, the new regulation will still undoubtedly pose a bevy of new challenges for marketers in both the short- and long-term. 

In fact, the last thing brands and marketing teams should be doing is letting the waning of the sensational GDPR news cycle lull them into a false sense of security. Look no further than Facebook’s disappointing second-quarter financial results and the fact that it lost 3 million daily active users in Europe during the second quarter — a development that can be attributed, at least in part, to GDPR.

In light of the fact that GDPR is here to stay, here are three keys to ensuring your marketing efforts remain on target and on the right side of the new European Union law.



Related Article: Why California's New Privacy Law Signals a Major Shift in the Privacy Landscape

1. Get on the Right Side of the Law, and Exercise Caution

The GDPR brings about a paradigm shift in data protection for any company that interacts with EU citizens or residents. And it’s not just the large global brands that need to make sure they are compliant. With nearly 60 percent of US small businesses having international customers, all business owners and entrepreneurs need to educate themselves on the rules the GDPR has put in place.

As we have seen in the past several weeks, with the dozens of “We’ve Updated Our Privacy Policy” emails bombarding our inboxes, most brands have been working to ensure that they stay ahead of the new rules. However, it’s never too late to make sure that your organization is caught up. There are plenty of resources to help brands and marketers with this.

To exercise caution, many brands dramatically reduced programmatic paid media buying in the EU market. On their own web properties, many are taking steps to ensure that site visitors and email recipients are aware of how their data is being used, while also providing them with clearer opt-out options. While the former may be a wise move for some brands to consider, the latter is something everyone should be doing today.

2. Focus on Building an Audience Through High-Quality Content

Before GDPR, many companies and marketers relied on targeted ad buying to raise awareness of their brands and products. The more money a company had to spend on targeted advertising, the wider the moat it could create between itself and its competitors.

However, under the GDPR, brands are being forced onto a more level targeted-ad playing field and must find other ways to win the awareness war. With dramatically increasing Facebook costs affecting big companies and startups alike, smaller businesses, in particular, will need to make some hard decisions about where to spend their precious advertising dollars.

This is where building an audience through high-quality content becomes an increasingly important weapon.

This starts with analysis — developing a data-driven content strategy to identify which types of content perform the best and then doubling down on them.

As the race to create the highest-performing content heats up, the winners will be those that invest in technology. We can expect more marketers to turn to content analysis platforms that provide more meaningful insights into performance and ROI. They will also be investing in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that can aid in the creation of more engaging and personalized experiences across platforms. These tools will become increasingly accessible to smaller and midsize companies, and those that adopt them will quickly outpace their competitors in the war for content attention.

Related Article: Marketers Are Missing the Point of GDPR — and the Opportunity

3. Shift Toward Tighter Campaign Integration

As the number of digital platforms proliferates, we marketers have more ways than ever to get our messages out. But surprisingly, we often find that with an increasing number of ways to share our messages, we become less successful. This is where integrated campaigns designed to avoid message fragmentation come into play. And with GDPR putting restrictions on some of our most successful paid marketing tactics and forcing us back to the drawing board, integration is more important than ever.

One of the areas where tighter integration can be fruitful is between influencer marketing and branded content (e.g., premium custom content that is created in tandem with a publisher). Influencer marketing is rising in both prominence and priority. That is evident in market projections (an Adweek columnist predicts that influencer marketing will be a $10 billion business by 2020) and, among other things, Facebook’s decision to get deeper into the game and the fact that the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is restructuring its award categories to include an influencer award.

It’s up to brands to shift from thinking about influencer marketing and branded content in silos and consider the benefits of combining these strategies.

There is a widely untapped opportunity for brands to take more comprehensive, integrated approaches to their influencer marketing, endorser partnerships and branded content campaigns. By launching these initiatives under one budget and one team, brands can build more scalable, always-on campaigns that reach audiences across platforms. They can also more effectively ensure brand safety, since one team of managers will be responsible for monitoring all aspects of this single, multifaceted campaign.

For some, all the GDPR news may seem a bit like the Y2K panic, where it was much ado about nothing. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if you are taking the right steps to comply with the GDPR, the new rules and guidelines alter the ways in which marketers can be effective. And that’s a good thing — they force us to be better. By doing so, we have the opportunity to improve our marketing strategies and build stronger audiences. And after all, that’s what we’re here for.