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One year on: How GDPR changed marketing

One year on: How GDPR changed marketing

The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR for short, has been in force for over a year now. The first few months in particular were accompanied by uncertainty and the almost daily question: "Are we still allowed to do this?” We took the one-year anniversary as an opportunity to ask four experts how the new European data protection regulations have shaped the marketing scene.

Klaus Weise, Partner and Managing Director Serviceplan Public Relations, is pleased that GDPR has led to increased data protection awareness among marketers:

“The introduction of GDPR has had some strange effects. Was it just scaremongering or pure idiocy right at the beginning? I still remember recommendations that we would for example need to remove the names from doorbells in residential buildings. A year later we know: the digital end of the world did not happen, nor did the huge wave of law suits.

What has changed? The flood of consent requests in our email inbox has made us all aware of who stores our data. We tend to forget that the internet doesn’t forget anything. It is good that the distribution lists of many email newsletters have shrunk considerably as a result of the GDPR. Because only a read newsletter is a good newsletter.

Marketers are becoming more aware that you can't do just anything with data. For example, social media monitoring has become a little more arduous. So what? The bottom line is that data protection is being taken more seriously. This is good for marketing and communications. Because our industry depends on acceptance and trust. In the long term, GDPR could even prove to be a competitive advantage for Europe."

Christian Fuchs, owner of email marketing and digital dialogue agency fuchs+wald, still observes a lot of uncertainty, but does not see the GDPR as an obstacle to good email marketing:

"The GDPR is still a big topic today for email marketing managers and teams who are concerned about customer communications. If legal newsletter topics are touched on at a conference or event, the term GDPR crops up immediately. The uncertainty among those involved is noticeable and is often not easily resolved.

Where are the uncertainties? It starts with obtaining permission to send newsletters and the question of what these newsletters have to look like in order to be truly compliant with the law. In addition, it must be clarified which data can be used for personalisation and automation. Many also find it difficult to distinguish between communications with regards a business relationship and communications for advertising purposes, which is why they do without newsletters. That's a pity, because the GDPR really does not stand in the way of good email marketing.”

Gilg Frick, Founder and Managing Director of the Hamburg-based creative agency NPIRE, has had negative experiences with the new data protection guidelines and sees no advantages:

"So far, I haven’t seen any advantages. For our customers, the GDPR means first and foremost that they have to fight their way through a rather opaque number of regulations and, against a background of severe penalties, try to strictly adhere to all of these requirements. At NPIRE, for example, we have tried to bring all of our customers' websites up to date - but the uncertainty has led some customers to take their websites offline completely."

Felix Schlepper, Senior Online Marketing Consultant at crowdmedia, digital consulting agency for content & online marketing, sees little change in the marketing scene after the first year of GDPR:

"The GDPR has not led to too much change in marketing. Firstly, there were some kneejerk reactions to GDPR in May 2018 which came without any thoughtful consideration. I believe that much unfounded panic has spread due to a lack of transparency or understandable information and one still encounters this today. But most of the kneejerk reactions have meanwhile been reversed, so that in marketing we are almost back to where we were before the GDPR.

One definite advantage is the increased awareness of the issue of data protection, as the panic around the introduction of GDPR has attracted a great deal of attention. We will feel the side effects of the lack of transparency and obligation as disadvantages for some time to come. Before the GDPR, the issue of data protection was certainly not taken seriously enough. If there are no more binding commitments soon, attitudes to data protection will presumably slip right back to that place."