EU privacy laws won’t mean the end of cookies – but they bloody should

As the momentous GDPR ruling looms on the horizon, Grapeshot APAC's Chris Pattinson argues it's time for marketers and agencies to end their over-reliance on opaque, third-party data

As the number of brands becoming programmatically-aligned increases, so does the need for campaign control, safety and transparency.

As General Data Protection Regulation, the EU data protection regulation, comes into play in May 2018, it will likely cause trouble for majority of advertisers who currently rely heavily on the use of third-party audience data for behavioural, interest or demographic targeting.

No one wants to get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, so to speak, especially when it might cost them up to four percent of the annual global revenue.

But come May 28, this is exactly what might happen. To any brand, agency or vendor in Asia-Pacific who believes GDPR legislation is a European thing not applying to them, think again.

There is more in the detail of the data protection law you need to consider. We’ve all seen GDPR banded around recently and many of us have read into it.

Pattinson: ‘GDPR may appear to be the end of cookies – but it isn’t’

On the surface, it may appear to be the end of cookies – but it isn’t; it may appear to be the end of retargeting – it isn’t; it may appear to be the end of reliance on behavioural data to deliver scale on campaigns – it isn’t.

But it should be. For too long, advertisers and agencies have fallen back on opaque third-party data segments to justify digital buying spend.

Client is a car brand? Great, target ‘auto intenders’. Client is a travel brand? Outstanding, target ‘traveller’. Client is a shampoo brand? Excellent, target ‘fashionistas’.

One thing I ask of my team when discussing media activations with agencies and brands, is the question ‘how would you solve this problem without me?’ How many media plans would truly solve an advertising relevance question without being able to use third-party cookie data.

Relevance in advertising is as necessary today as it was in the beginning. All the media value comes from the relevance of a message to its intended audience; relevance is as much timely as its audience’s resonance.

Problem is we have fallen back on cookies as a proxy for relevance. In fact, the rise of ad blockers is attributable to audience spamming – too many irrelevant, repetitive and untimely ads with no relation to current need. Let’s think about this: for an airline, who is most valuable to place an ad in front of today?

The person who is reading and researching a holiday right now, or the one who booked a flight last week?

The answer is obvious. So advertisers need to be thinking what questions they are really asking: ‘What is the problem my product solves and how can I proactively talk with people who are declaring they have that problem right now (not last week)?’

The answer: ‘By targeting the content and context about that problem or solution so it is seen at the time someone silently declares they have that issue’.

The kicker: targeting is not ‘data subject’ based. If no data is being collected, it has nothing to do with GDPR. It is actually irrelevant if the person researching your solution right now is male or female, 18 or 80. They have a problem. You have a solution.

Audience in context will shape a post-cookie world. More regulations help us think harder about what relevance actually means to the customer, not just the advertiser. Who is it you really want to talk to and where are you likely to have the best response to the solution you’re proposing to them?

Context will matter more than ever before, as the choice across 140 billion impressions outstrip the 3.6 billion connected people on the planet today.

So if you still think GDPR doesn’t impact you, think again and take the opportunity to be useful to someone at the time they need the help most. Worst case, it will significantly up the chances of them “opting-in” when the time comes.

Chris Pattinson is the SVP of ad tech firm Grapeshot Asia Pacific


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