4 Marketers Share How GDPR Will Shake Up Brands’ Data Strategies

Global regulations will have large impact on U.S. advertisers

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Headshot of Lauren Johnson

Global brands are gearing up for the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR), which will go into effect in May and change how brands collect and store data.

Chiefly, the new rules limit the amount of data that marketers can collect on European consumers, who have more options about what data companies can see about them. Marketers and vendors who have long relied on data-driven advertising will now need to implement new processes and technology that ask consumers to share their information.

With data privacy top of mind, Adweek polled a handful of execs—including Google’s CMO and the president of UM—at CES about what the upcoming regulations mean for marketers.

Lorraine Twohill, CMO of Google
We’re down an 18-month to two-year path focused on this [and] it’s important not just for GDPR but for our users because we know our users care deeply about their privacy.

For example, we launched a privacy link on our homepage that links through to a site that explains what data we have and how we use it. We launched six controls that you can easily switch on or off [including] search history, videos watched and location.

Whether or not we had GDPR, it’s just good business sense and the right thing to do for our customers. As long as consumers see the win, they understand [the data] trade off.

Kasha Cacy, president of UM for the U.S.
We are going to have to put in rules, regulations and processes because we will end up with data from Europe. Although it isn’t applicable in the U.S., we need to make sure we know how to handle that, so there are some practical considerations that we’re working on.

Then I think there are some proactive things we’re working on, which is how do we think about data privacy, how do we lead the industry in that area?

It’s interesting because data privacy in the U.S. is a conversation that’s been going on six, eight, 10 years and it doesn’t catch fire the way that it does [in Europe]. I don’t see those same regulations happening here anytime soon because you don’t see the uproar happening here. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t as companies and agencies think very clearly about how we use that data and are we being respectful because if we abuse it, it will be gone.

Rachel Lowenstein, manager of strategic innovation at Mindshare North America’s Life+
Consumers are starting to ask questions [about their data] and if you looked at any of the trade [coverage] leading up to CES, all of the questions were about consumer privacy. I think consumers are paying attention to data more and more now.

When building [voice] skills and apps, data collection has to be transparent and there’s some information that says, ‘this information might be shared.’ As marketers and agencies, we need to do more to address those questions.

If I’m a retail brand that’s focusing on fitness and health, I might have better access to data because I can see more than just how much someone is moving everyday—I can see their breath count, stress levels and things that are more rich and deep. The quality of data certainly becomes better.

Ultimately, we need to do a better job of figuring out what the threshold is for how much consumers want a personalized experience and how much they’re willing to give up to have that personalized experience.

Guillaume Lelait, managing director of Fetch
The way that you can leverage data in the U.S. is much more lax and in Europe there are definitely a lot of technologies that you cannot do. That means that we are going back to proxies, and companies will build probabilistic models.

But it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Companies that own their own data such as Criteo and Merkle are definitely looking into it. I think some companies are going to find ways to have the audience opt-in—kind of in a value-exchange way and maybe go around it. They want to make sure consumers understand the value exchange.

@laurenjohnson lauren.johnson@adweek.com Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.