Date published

Oct 24, 2017

2018 will see the dreaded GDPR in place throughout the UK and across Europe.

Wait, what?

You’re not all over it? Ok, here are the Cliff Notes for anyone late to the party:

The General Data Protection Regulation will totally change how businesses have to store and use personal data. It’s been created to protect individuals and ensure companies only use data in transparent, legitimate ways.

It’s the Data Protection Act on steroids. And it’s going to affect businesses’ marketing functions in two main ways:

  1. Internal systems for storing and collecting personal data will need to be rebuilt and every step of the process will need to be organized. Immaculately. And transparently. For many organisations, this’ll amount to hiring dedicated officers or agencies to implement the process. 48% of UK businesses haven’t yet met the 19-year old DPA compliance standards, so this could prove very expensive.
    And when the current £500k limit on DPA non-compliance fines explodes to £17 million or 4% of turnover (whichever’s higher), getting ahead of this curveball is crucial.
  2. … And most relevantly for this post, it’s going to change how that data is permitted for use in marketing. So if you’re client-side, read on. If you’re an integrated marketing agency, read on …

GDPR requires explicit consent for marketing communications – for both customers and prospects. Here are just a few of the practices (that we’ve all seen) that just won’t wash anymore:

  • tying marketing sign-ups into product sign-ups (unless it’s necessary for the product)
  • pre-ticking those ‘opt in’ checkboxes
  • bulk-buying lists
  • being vague about third parties’ data and who that will be shared with
  • keeping no records of explicit, provided consent for your contacts.

It’s all good stuff. No, really. It’ll mean clean databases, more receptive audiences, and more effective campaigns. But it’s going to take some getting used to…

In fact, industry analysts are suggesting that 75% of current contact database records in UK businesses won’t be compliant with GDPR.

But there’ll be a grace period for clients and creative marketing agencies, right?


There’s no grace period. If it doesn’t have spotless provenance, you’re going to have to hit delete or face the Information Commissioner’s wrath.

Losing three quarters of your marketing potential – at a stroke. Think about that. BBDO would just be ‘O’.

So what does this mean for DM marketers and customers in a post-GDPR world?

  • As postbags get a lot lighter, chiselled, Popeye-like posties could sadly become a thing of the past.
  • Doormats will forever change forever. In the words of Destiny’s Child, it’ll mostly be bills, bills, billzzzzzz….

(And the one that isn’t a bit of a gag…)

DM marketing is going to have to work harder than ever before.

We’ll be switching from shotguns to scalpels. We won’t be relying on bulk the way we used to, and these highly-targeted, opt-in audiences will need to be intelligently catered for.

This means:

More creative campaigns.

Make every drop count, and make an impression. Prove that we’re in a post-spam era. Artwork, die-cuts, witty lines, foils, whatever it might be – make it good, and make it relevant. Make customers want to hear from you.

Campaigns designed specifically to drive valid opt-ins before GDPR arrives

Unsure whether your data is squeaky clean? Turn over a new leaf and give those people a chance to properly opt in – or out.

Value-add campaigns and content

Building a content ecosystem that rewards sign-ups and gives people a reason to get involved and stay involved. After all, GDPR also insists that it’s easier than ever for individuals to remove themselves from lists!

With a smaller pool, analysis and testing are more important than ever.

Ever baulked at A/B testing for 50k recipients? Get used to doing it for around 10k now. No more throwing envelope mud bombs at a wall and seeing what sticks.

So there’s going to be adjustment. Some printers will be hit hard. Creative marketing agencies who made up creative costs with print media billing might need to rethink their strategy.

But most importantly, it’s time for DM agencies and businesses to start working more closely than ever before. We’re entering pro-consumer nirvana where our messages fall on more receptive ears. And we’re going to have to make sure our work is some of the best it’s ever been when it gets there.

If you’re a client armed with what you think is a good integrated marketing agency and haven’t chatted to them about GDPR campaign strategies, make an excuse to do it. Today.

Because tomorrow may be too late.