By Paul King, Head of Marketing Technology and Data Protection Officer at Ogilvy UK


It can be argued that the majority of brands who operate within the Customer Engagement space have over the past five years seen a decline in their response metrics – which has led to many industry observers concluding that we are witnessing the slow demise of this traditional form of marketing.

Even though I personally disagreed with the forecast of doom and gloom regarding the traditional form of marketing, I certainly had concerns some 12 months ago over how the pending GDPR legislation would negatively impact our discipline. 

On reflection, just like the dire forewarnings in the late ‘90s that the Millennium Bug would bring about the end of the world, the predicted pending GDPR disaster did not materialise. In fact, I would be so bold as to say the exact opposite has actually transpired. 

Data-driven marketing is alive and well

Due to the fact that responsible businesses took precautions to invest in the right tools and resources to ensure compliance, data-driven marketing is still very much top of the marketing mix.  Those businesses who embraced the true ethos of GDPR regarding transparency, trust and empathy have largely seen positive impacts from GDPR. As a case in point, one of our very own clients has seen an 18% increase in customer opt-in rates post GDPR. 

This significant improvement in brand trust has been put down to a review and modification of their contact preference options and language to make all touchpoints transparent in regard to the data being collected, what it will be used for and probably most importantly, what the customer benefits of providing and sharing the data are. The legislation is clear in its intent to hold companies accountable for personal data which has brought a sense of reassurance to the industry. Brands now realise they need to offer more in terms of value exchange for the privilege of becoming responsible custodians of that data. And anecdotally as a consumer I feel I’ve received better targeted and coordinated customer experiences since the introduction of GDPR from the brands I choose to entrust with my personal data.

What’s next?

I am predicting that year two of the legislation will see us moving into an evaluation and enforcement phase where the UK regulator will continue with its well documented path of regulatory enforcement.

However, I anticipate that organisations will increasingly start to challenge these enforcements through the law courts. This will in turn shape an evolving catalogue of legal precedence which every brand will need to review carefully against their own internal processes. Currently even the best prepared brands can only at most claim they are on a path to GDPR compliance. Very few brands can claim to be fully GDPR compliant at this stage and case law will be a game changer in GDPR year two.

Turning away from brands’ commitment to GDPR it is heartening to see the technology vendors (albeit pushed into it in most cases by the impending California Privacy Act) implementing fundamental privacy features into their product roadmaps. My hope is that in this ever-changing privacy landscape tech vendors continue to adopt an agile approach to privacy functionality.

On reflection GDPR hasn’t single handledly saved the Customer Experience discipline, but what it undoubtably has done is instilled a renewed sense of trust and confidence from customers into brands that have embraced GDPR; which when coupled with a greater determination from marketeers to provide compelling and relevant customer experiences will ensure our industry will go from strength to strength in the future (of course, PECR permitting!!).  For now, lets revel in the positives that GDPR has brought to our industry.


This was originally published in Digital Doughnut here.