Given how long we’ve been talking about GDPR, it may come as a surprise that it’s only been three months since the EU-wide regulation came into effect.

However, we’ve already seen some early casualties as a result of the law. Most notably Drawbridge, the cross device measurement and attribution platform, and Verve, the location data specialists, have both pulled out of Europe – and blamed GDPR for the move.

As expected ad tech’s major players, including the Google/Facebook/Amazon triopoly, have remained relatively unscathed, with consent fairly easy to come by.

The difficulties that GDPR poses looks to have fallen at the feet of the smaller technology platforms. There have been a number of companies pulling sales teams or even their whole advertising platform – in the case of Weve – out of the UK, albeit without stating GDPR as a reason.

Whether it was a direct cause or not, GDPR has arguably begun cleaning up the digital advertising infrastructure.
A recent Reuters study looked at the delivery of cookies across news sites and it’s the UK that’s seen the largest drop of all European territories. Between April and July, there has been an estimated 45% drop in use of third party cookies in the UK.

Partly spring-cleaning and partly regulatory, the news should be seen as a positive move from major publishers as a step towards greater digital transparency and an improved user experience for consumers.

The initial panic from advertisers saw programmatic ad spend drop fairly dramatically across the board, mainly due to the uncertainty around the regulation itself and with marketers waiting to see its true impact.

In better news, the concern has now begun to subside and faith seems to have been restored in programmatic, with spend recovering to the levels pre-GDPR.

Where third-party data is more difficult to access and is being scrutinised more than ever before, the opportunity for contextual planning in digital has returned. Contextual targeting has been the poorer cousin in recent years, when coming to digital strategy.

Third-party data could, however, accurately tell you whether someone was in market, stood on the high-street or behaving like your current customers, contextual was the domain of offline channels and less digital.

Relying less on third-party data and more on the environment and quality of a placement should also begin to drive better results for advertisers. The rise in awareness of things such as viewability and exposure times has put digital ads under the microscope once more, but it has exposed the area where digital advertising is often held back – creative.

Focusing on how an ad looks to the consumer, an understanding of the device being used and then buying in contextually relevant environments should serve to improve the experience and simplify the process for advertisers.
It’s safe to say we probably haven’t seen the last of the GDPR casualties quite yet, but if progress continues to be made and the digital ecosystem becomes more transparent, it will be a price worth paying.

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