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Published: 16 Mar 2018

The Future of Gaming: Esports Activate 2018

IEM San Jose 2014

At the inaugural Esports Activate showcase in New York on March 6, panellists and presenters gathered to discuss the brands, technologies and tastemakers shaping the future of competitive video gaming. With global e-sports revenue expected to hit $905.6m in 2018 (Newzoo, 2017), the time is now for creative brands to move into this burgeoning market.

  • Community Cornerstones: Video games have a reputation as a solitary activity, but panellists emphasised the importance of in-person social events for fostering connections among gamers. "Real-life events take the e-sports world from high tech to high touch," said Sarah DaVanzo, vice-president of consumer and market insight at L'Oreal.

    Emily Sun, co-founder of Boston-based female gaming collective Smash Sisters, argued that women are especially drawn to in-person competitions. These events provide a place to bond over a shared interest, away from the frequently toxic anti-female environments that arise in digital gaming communities.

    Brands can use e-sports events to organically engage with the expanding community. Coca-Cola sponsored US-wide screenings of the 2018 world championships for fantasy game Smite, while German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz brings a fleet of cars to competitions for gamers to test drive. Competitive gaming company OpTic Gaming has also ventured into e-sports tailgate parties. Whereas traditional tailgating parties at American football games bring team communities together to share beer and burgers, e-sports tailgating combines barbecues with game-specific activations, such as cosplay competitions.
Smash Sisters
  • Authentic Activations: "E-sports participants don't like logo slaps but they do like brands that authentically engage. They're jaded about traditional advertising, but they're passionate about good content," said Todd Harris, chief operating officer at game developer Hi-Rez Studios.

    While 80% of e-sports viewers use ad blockers, 85% appreciate when brands reach out through gaming and 58% are looking to try new brands (Newzoo, 2017). "Lifestyle brands generally integrate better into the e-sports space because e-sports are a lifestyle themselves," argued Guy Costantini, vice-president of global interactive marketing for gaming company Skydance Media. For instance, OpTic Gaming's president Ryan Musselman highlighted an activation for fast-food chain Chipotle that showed a team of pro gamers fuelling their performance with the brand's food.
Clancy Tech
Intel sponsors e-sports
  • Social-Savvy Spectators: E-sports fans are heavy users of social media, which they use to stream games and interact with fellow gamers. Fifty-seven per cent converse on Facebook, 42% on Twitter and 22% on Reddit, in addition to the chat sidebars that pop up in-game (Nielsen, 2017).

    These social habits inform game design. Costantini explained: "We're starting to design games to not just be played competitively, but also to be watched. The viewers want something similar to what sports viewers want – [gaming] can be a social experience for people."
  • Traditional Dynamics for New Audiences: With over 50 US universities offering e-sports scholarships and prize money pools growing across leagues and tournaments, professional gaming is quickly developing a culture akin to that of traditional athletes. Companies like OpTic have hired coaches to boost player ability and have developed a nutrition and exercise programme to ensure players are at the peak of their performance. According to Imari Oliver, chief executive of New York-based technology strategy company Bond & Play, "these people are professionals, playing 14 to 15 hours a day. They are doing something not everyone can do."

    Vitally, panellists said e-sports give legacy sports brands like the NBA and NFL access to an audience that's distinct from existing sports viewers, as well as being younger and more affluent, with the potential for long and lucrative relationships.

For more on gaming's growth factors, see State of Media: The Fan-First Revolution and our regular Pop Culture Round-Ups.

UC Irvine gaming
Published: 13 Mar 2018

Preview: Youth Marketing Strategies 2018

Youth Marketing Strategy 2018

As discussed in our report Pop Culture Round-Up: Winter 2018, the values, desires and attitudes of Gen Z have recently been amplified by two very different experiences. One was the reaction to the tragedy of the Parkland high-school shooting in the US; the other was the success of a new generation of young, multicultural and LGBTQ athletes at the Winter Olympics.

The power of this Gen Z cultural moment comes as no surprise to anyone aware of this demographic's savviness, individuality and diverse outlook. But it underscores how important they're becoming as a consumer force. However, that's not to say they can be easily defined.

This year's Youth Marketing Strategies (YMS) conference (London, March 21-22) will gather social media experts, marketers, start-ups and young consumers to explore Gen Z trends and attitudes, and help brands better understand this complex generation.

YMS's parent company, youth insights business Voxburner, will be launching its latest Youth Trends Report at the event, "busting any misconceptions you may have on the attitudes, values and behaviours of this generation". Attendees will also hear from the likes of social media marketing firm Social Chain, Chinese digital agency Qumin, and marketing experts from liqueur brand Jägermeister and ice-cream giant Häagen-Dazs.

Stylus will also be participating. Christian Ward, head of Media & Marketing, will be chairing a panel with Sony, Three, BBC Radio, US entertainment company Refinery29 and UK production company Mad Cow Films on how to create truthful and innovative digital content.

If you'd like to attend YMS, we're offering a 20% discount. Use the code STYLUS20 when buying tickets here.

For more on marketing to Gen Z, see Pop Culture Close-Up: The Outrage Economy, 7 Platforms to Watch in 2018, and our Pop Culture Infographic, The Five Es of Gen Z.

Published: 12 Mar 2018

Guardian Changing Media Summit 2018

Guardian Changing Media Summit 2018

The stark realities of the crisis in media and advertising were faced head-on at this year's Guardian Changing Media Summit (London BFI, March 7). From the gender pay gap, to better representation of women and minorities and the ad world's battle with Silicon Valley, the BFI echoed with loud calls for change.

The #MeToo Revolution

There was anger from a number of panellists at what's been lost as a result of women feeling forced to leave the industry because of sexism and harassment. British media writer Jane Martinson pushed Martin Sorrell, chief of UK advertising giant WPP, on the need for change in his own business. "Women in our industry are more effective than men," Sorrell commented – prompting Martinson to ask: "Why don't you promote more women then?"

British advertising consultant Cindy Gallop saw this gap between words and deeds as a key problem. Gallop emphasised that the biggest issue facing the ad industry today is sexual harassment. "It keeps out of leadership and power the leaders who would make equality, diversity and inclusion happen," she said. She called for action through demonstration: "Don't do stunts about diversity, or create content about diversity – be diverse."

Trust Issues

In the "fake news" era, the question of trust is crucial. Sam Baker, founder of UK female-focused platform The Pool, commented that "the only value you have is the audience's trust". Farrah Storr, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan UK, agreed, pointing to the value of print in establishing that image of trustworthiness. "Advertisers are understanding the role that print plays in building trust," she said.

There was concern over the way social media forces people into "echo chambers", where they only hear opinions that they agree with. However, Matt Kelly, editor of pro-EU newspaper The New European, vehemently disagreed. "The media has never been more plural; the echo chamber has been completely blown apart," he said. "The problem is the fact-checking. We're suckers for a story, and journos have become lazy in grabbing onto tags [like fake news]. We need to be much better in establishing facts."

Kelly sees this as an opportunity: "Brands will gravitate to being trustworthy," he commented. Nick Robinson, presenter of BBC Today, agreed: "Brands will re-establish themselves," he said. "People will realise that they need to go to brands they can trust, because you don't have time to assess for yourself the truth of stories."

Emily Maitlis chairing a session on the impact of #metoo

Brands Take Back Control

This idea of brands reasserting themselves as arbiters of truth and authenticity was important for many speakers, who believed that brands have for too long been doing whatever the tech giants demanded of them.

Sacha Berlik, managing director, EMEA of global programmatic agency The Trade Desk, said: "Advertisers can vote with their money. They can make a decision [about] if they want to fund unmonitored social media content, or fund quality journalism." He believes that "we need to be educating the advertising world" on the responsibilities they should be taking on to ensure trustworthy journalism survives.

Gallop came at the same problem from a different angle. "We have a responsibility to redesign the future of technology," she said. "The founders of the big tech companies hate advertising. When you hate advertising, you will never leverage your resources and talent to innovate completely new forms of powerful new advertising on your platforms."

Gallop views this as a massive opportunity for brands and marketers to take back control. "The future is not ad units – it's ad products," she said. "Things of utility and value that surprise and delight consumers in the way they're delivered. We have the opportunity to create those. Look at those platforms and decide how you'd like to use them."

As such, she advised brands: "Blue-sky it. Don't look at what exists now – project out five years down the line; go sci-fi and magical."

For further analysis of all these issues, see State of Media: The Fan-First Revolution, A Fashion A'Woke'ening, Pop Culture Close-Up: The Outrage Economy and Tackling Taboos.

Published: 23 Feb 2018

Air New Zealand Plans Emoji Itineraries

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand has launched a social media campaign built around the communicative power of emoji. Across its social channels, the airline is asking consumers to send their travel points of interest in the form of emoji to receive customised interactive travel maps.

Jodi Williams, Air New Zealand's general manager of global brand and content marketing, said the campaign is aimed at millennials and Gen Zers, who are familiar with communicating with emoji.

Repackaging information for visually minded online consumers is now a key directive for social marketers. Five billion emoji are sent through Facebook Messenger each day (Facebook, 2017). The web tool Emojitracker gives a real-time glimpse at emoji use on Twitter – the platform has offered the option for marketers to target individuals based on their emoji use since 2016.

Other visual formats are also heading towards ubiquity. Gif-sharing platform Giphy has just closed deals for integration into the Story tools on both Instagram and Snapchat, while Facebook has rolled out interactive 3D objects in its feed, with Lego among the first brands to take advantage of the new format.

To stay in touch with the latest developments in online image culture, follow our regular Pop Culture Round-Ups. For more on interactive formats and how to surface on crowded social feeds, see State of Media: The Fan-First Revolution.

Published: 19 Feb 2018

Oreo’s Augmented Reality Treasure Hunt

Global FMCG giant Mondelez has leveraged the ongoing partnership between its cookie brand Oreo and Google to create The Great Oreo Cookie Quest – an augmented reality (AR) treasure hunt.

The mobile game app sets users on mini missions to find virtual Oreos in the real world around them. As opposed to geolocation-based AR games like Pokémon Go, The Great Oreo Cookie Quest uses image recognition to unlock rewards. Players receive riddles and clues for everyday items to hunt down and scan into the app to unlock the virtual cookies. Points are awarded depending on how difficult individual tasks were to master.

As they compete on the global leader board for prizes like Google smartphones or a trip to the company's headquarters in San Francisco, players can compare themselves to friends linked via social media accounts.

Such interactive formats turn passive audiences into active participants in brand campaigns. With the mobile AR user base expected to crack the one billion threshold by 2020 (Digi-Capital, 2017), there are huge brand opportunities in figuring out how AR games and interfaces can nudge consumer behaviour, drive them to real locations, and create physical brand experiences at scale.

For more on how to harness the immersive power of mobile AR to create personal and collective moments, see State of Mobile: Augmented Reality Special and State of Media: The Fan-First Revolution.

Published: 9 Feb 2018

Unicef’s Cryptocurrency Donation Game Changer

Global children's aid organisation Unicef has launched an online tool that asks PC gamers to mine cryptocurrency to help children in war-torn Syria.

To participate, players can head to the Game Chaingers site to install software that will start generating Ethereum coins (the second highest valued cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin) and automatically send them to Unicef's electronic wallet.

The campaign specifically targets gamers because gaming PCs have the high hardware capabilities (specifically their powerful graphics cards) that make mining possible. Between gaming sessions, a high-end machine could generate the equivalent of $2-3 per day for Unicef's efforts.

Tools like Game Chaingers let consumers redirect their existing resources into positive action. These habit changes in turn create lasting awareness of the brands that enabled them to take such steps.

"What interests us is to use this cryptocurrency as a painless way to contribute," said Unicef on its website. "Through the use of mining, we create an opportunity for those who cannot give, or have never had the opportunity to do so."

For more on how brands can make consumers an active and integral part of initiatives to create a better world, see Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing. To read about prominent digital channels of the moment, check out 7 Platforms to Watch in 2018.

Published: 2 Feb 2018

Super Bowl 2018: Meta Advertising

Thirty-second ad slots during this year's NFL Super Bowl broadcast (February 4) come with $5m price tags. Many brands are joining the annual advertising extravaganza with self-aware mega-spots full of stars, befitting the price of entry, while some are looking to digital alternatives to get their share of the attention at a lower cost.

  • The Meta Sell: Many brands in the 2018 Super Bowl ad round-up are playing with self-awareness around the bombast of the advertising occasion. US brand Tostitos is even selling Super Bowl ads as a concept, creating a digital platform that auto-generates clips full of cute features and celebrities for fans to promote their home-viewing parties.

    Texas-based marketing group Avocados from Mexico's ad teaser shows American actor Chris Elliot announcing himself as a "big-time Hollywood actor" to prepare the expected 111 million viewers for the elaborate brand communications headed their way. Meanwhile, PepsiCo is rolling out two highly regarded actors to face off in a rap battle under the tutelage of two hip-hop legends. US actors Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman have stepped up to an ad by sub-brands Doritos and Mountain Dew, under the benevolent eyes of American rap artists Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliot.  
  • Performative Non-Participation: While outstanding campaigns of previous years had small brands banding together to ironically share expensive air time, this year big brands are making a show of not playing along. For instance, US snack brand Kind is using the money required to pay for a 30-second ad slot to incentivise consumers to distribute its ad on its behalf. The company is giving away $6m worth of its product to the first three million people to share its ad online.

    Mars-owned candy brand Skittles has turned the big numbers on their head. It's created a lavish video worthy of the prime broadcast spots, but is only going to show it to one person: a Californian teenager called Marcos Menendez. Although the actual ad itself will only be seen by Menendez, the brand is teasing the spot with a series of uncanny clips featuring US actor David Schwimmer speculating on what the exclusive and elusive ad will look like. During the game, viewers can head to Skittles' Facebook page to watch a live stream of Menendez having his truly unique viewing experience.

    So far, the campaign has increased digital content engagement around the Skittles brand by 112% (Media Post, 2018).  
  • Owning the Second Screen: Skittles is an official sponsor of the NFL, so its non-participation is only nominal, but as we first discussed in our Super Bowl 2016 commentary, digital channels have given brands a multitude of ways to engage consumers around a public event without needing to be officially affiliated.

    Mercedes Benz is making a bid for second-screen attention during game time. It's presenting a smartphone-based version of the car dealership 'last man standing' endurance stunt, wherein a group of contestants place their hands on a parked car, until only one remains standing after however many hours or days to take the vehicle home with them. When Philadelphia and the New England Patriots face off on February 4, Last Fan Standing will challenge sports fans' patience as they try to keep their finger on a moving AMG C43 Coupe being live-streamed on screen. A live counter will inform players how many fellow contestants remain in the game, and the last person glued to their mobile screen will win the car. Drew Slaven, vice-president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA, explained in a statement: "We wanted to get beyond the traditional game-day executions and do something that was more reflective of the social co-viewing phenomena that game day has become, with people alternating between watching the big screen and socialising on the small one." Mercedes has teased Last Fan Standing through social video ads on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. It's worth noting that Digiday estimates $5m could buy an advertiser 32 years' worth of digital video ads. 

For more on second-screen engagement, check out 7 Platforms to Watch in 2018. To get a monthly look at shifting public opinions through the lens of entertainment, follow our Pop Culture Round-Ups.

Published: 25 Jan 2018

P&G Returns to ‘The Talk’ through Ad Integration

P&G's integration on Black-ish

This week, characters on US broadcaster ABC's sitcom Black-ish discussed Procter & Gamble's award-winning July 2017 campaign The Talk, which features African-American parents from many decades talking about racial bias with their children.

The episode saw the show's father Dre Johnson (an ad executive) working on an advertising campaign around P&G's film, and taking the challenges it highlights into conversations with his family. Black-ish has a track record of not shying away from topical discussions like the race politics surrounding the Trump election. This makes it a natural partner to the spirit in which The Talk was conceived, and lets P&G resurface its campaign by refreshing the conversation, instead of simply rerunning the ad.

Joining public conversations is a key part of brand strategy in 2018. Last year, a survey revealed 65% of belief-driven consumers will not buy a brand that stays silent on an issue they feel it should address (Edelman, 2017). P&G will take its position into Black History Month in February with additional podcast integrations of The Talk, as well as online discussion and action guides for parents.

For more on organic brand engagement around big and topical issues, see Brands Take a Stand from our Currency of Dissent Macro Trend, Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing and our latest Pop Culture Close-Up: The Outrage Economy.

Published: 17 Jan 2018

Tostitos’ Personalised Pre-Super-Bowl Ads


American snack brand Tostitos is getting ahead of the Super Bowl advertising competition by letting people generate over-the-top ads to promote their own at-home viewing parties.

San Francisco-based creative agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners has set up a microsite where visitors can add the details of their party – time, place, host – and then use a video generator to assemble a personalised invitation. The final result splices together clips of game-day advertising tropes like talking babies, fluffy animals, mouthy seniors and nostalgia-tickling celebrities (Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton on 90s TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) to create a Super Bowl ad-themed invitation video. The clip collection allows for hundreds of variations of the final product, letting users remix their videos until all their favourite advertising clichés are featured.

Facebook has just reset its feed algorithms to favour posts from friends and family over content from brands and publishers. While this comes as a shock to media outlets that have 'pivoted to video' at Facebook's previous behest, the move will be a boon to user-generated content in marketing. Tools like My Super Bowl Ad let brands follow consumers to their favourite platforms by becoming a part of their personal branding and conversations with friends and family.

For more on the latest online content tools and platforms, check out 7 Platforms to Watch in 2018 and State of Media: The Fan-First Revolution.

Published: 5 Jan 2018

Audi’s Open-Source Safety Code

Four out of five drivers admit to browsing websites on personal devices behind the wheel – a behaviour that increases the risk of accidents by 300%. To counter this dangerous habit, German luxury car manufacturer Audi partnered with Swedish digital agency Åkestam Holst to create the Audi Safety Code.

Integrated into Audi's website, the tool analyses visitors' GPS data and blocks access on any device traveling over 20 km/h until users confirm they are passengers, not drivers. Audi hopes to spread its one-click nudge towards safety by making the code freely available for any other site to use, with its brand name appearing on the site lock screen.

We've explored at length how in the age of ad-blocking and weighted social feed algorithms, brands can create their own communication touchpoints with in-the-moment utilities, lifestyle-enhancing services, and ephemeral media and retail opportunities (see Third Spaces: Targeting the Transitory and Reflexive Retail: Live, Emotional & On-Demand). As brands increasingly use social awareness messaging to position themselves, Audi's Safety Code has identified a moment the brand can activate for the common good. In our 2018 Look Ahead, we predicted that creating real impact and tackling central social and ecological issues will be key for brands to sustain consumer attention and loyalty in the year ahead.

For more on how your brand can credibly help to shape a better world and shout about it, see Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing .

Published: 20 Dec 2017

Battle of the Brands: Creating Distinction

KFC vs. Carl's Jr

To see out the year, we're looking back at some of 2017's most impactful marketing campaigns. And, because we can, we're pitching brand competitors against one another to see who did it best.

In the crowded fast-dining category, US chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) stands out with an ironic cult following around its founder turned mascot Colonel Sanders. This year, the brand launched a sell-out fan merchandise shop with sweatshirts, Sanders-themed pillow cases and chicken sandwiches sculpted from meteoric rock. The shop was the natural culmination of previous kooky one-off products like edible chicken-flavoured nail polish and fried-chicken-scented sunscreen.

While KFC doubles down on its brand, US burger chain Carl's Jr. stepped back from the name it had made for itself with a 12-year run of ads featuring female bombshells in bikinis. In March, 'The Return of Carl Hardee Sr' featured a fictionalised company founder taking back the reins from his puerile son to focus on "food, not boobs". When the brand went into the desert to destroy its marketing past, fans could tune in to a Twitch livestream and vote on how piles of previous advertising props would be obliterated.

Carl's Jr's pivot was overdue, but the brand has not yet built on its initial campaign. By contrast, KFC continues to delight with seasonal projects like its Mother's Day romance novella (see Pop Culture Round-Up: April 2017), as well as social media stunts. While we wait to see whether Carl's Jr continues to renounce reductive advertising, KFC wins this battle of distinction.

For more on how fast food brands garner attention in a saturated market, see The New Rules of Fast Food Marketing.

Published: 14 Dec 2017

Battle of the Brands: Conquering Platforms

Burger King vs. Taco Bell

To see out the year, we are looking back at some of 2017's most impactful marketing campaigns. And, because we can, we're pitching brand competitors against one another to see who did it best.

In April, Burger King Spain added a team of professional video gamers to its food delivery service, bringing its product straight into consumers' nightly gaming sessions. The global fast-food chain's Burger Clan of nine professional gamers entered weekend online sessions of FIFA '17, Call of Duty and other popular titles, giving recreational gamers the honour of playing with them before taking their food delivery orders at the end of the session.

In July, Taco Bell went all out with a finishing touch for the late-night reveller's journey home. In collaboration with ride-hailing service Lyft, the US chain introduced Taco Mode to Lyft customers' riding experience. Passengers had the option to activate Taco Mode in the app en route, adding a stop at a Taco Bell to their journey – including one free taco.

Burger King's limited run was an elaborate project that built brand loyalty by introducing hobby gamers to pros. But Taco Bell's Lyft partnership came with a frictionless user experience that slotted more naturally into the customer's day – who wouldn't want a taco after drinks? Such consideration for an organic overall experience makes Taco Bell the winner.

For more on in-the-moment engagement, see Third Spaces: Targeting the Transitory. To stay up to date with digital platforms and gaming culture, follow our Pop Culture Round-Ups.

Published: 12 Dec 2017

Battle of the Brands: Rethinking Femininity

SK-II vs. Avon UK

To see out the year, we're looking back at some of 2017's most impactful marketing campaigns. And, because we can, we're pitching brand competitors against one another to see who did it best.

In 2016, Procter and Gamble's skincare brand SK-II started a conversation around China's 'leftover women' (those unmarried at 27) with its Marriage Market video (see New Attitudes to Love and Sex). This summer, the brand expanded the message into other Asian markets with The Expiry Date. The dystopian ad highlights cultural expectations around Asian women marrying young by literally putting expiry dates on the wrists of newborn girls in China, Japan and South Korea – a source of increasing shame as they grow. The story ends with the dates disappearing, followed by the message: "You are more than your age. Don't let others put an expiry date on you."

In the UK, beauty giant Avon marked its sponsorship deal with the Liverpool Ladies' Football Club with Fiercely Feminine, an ad featuring the team's players that critiques society's disconnect between femininity and athleticism. The partnership is part of Avon's larger I Can Be campaign to inspire girls to achieve their ambitions. A report commissioned by Avon found that 29% of UK women believe social barriers and stereotypes placed on women have held them back.

Both brands are advocating for a shift in our perception of women's ambitions. However, SK-II's dystopian scenario drives the message home with a stronger punch.

For more on how beauty brands are challenging stereotypes for all genders, check out Empowering Beauty and Next-Gen Beauty Marketing.

Published: 8 Dec 2017

Battle of the Brands: Taking a Stand

Patagonia vs. Jigsaw

Patagonia vs. Jigsaw

To see out the year, we're looking back at some of 2017's most impactful marketing campaigns. And, because we can, we're pitching brand competitors against one another to see who did it best.

On December 4 2017, California-based outdoor apparel brand Patagonia strongly opposed President Trump's executive order to drastically reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah. "The president stole your land," read a blackout message on Patagonia's website and social media accounts. "This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history." Patagonia's billionaire founder and chief executive Yvon Chouinard amplified the message by saying he plans to sue the Trump administration over the decision.

Earlier this year, British fashion retailer Jigsaw met rising anti-immigration sentiments in the UK head-on with its 'Heart Immigration' manifesto (see Tackling Taboos), which reads: "None of us are the product of staying put." Jigsaw's head of marketing Alex Kelly said: "As a brand, we couldn't do what we do without the immigration of people, ideas and culture." To further challenge the notion of '100% British', the company let its employees analyse the ancestry of their genes, laying open their diverse origins.

Jigsaw took an unflinching position in a very heated political environment, and the staff gene analysis was a great way of making the political personal. Patagonia's promise of direct action, however, is a new watermark for brands standing up not only for themselves, but also for their customers, making the outdoor brand the champion of this battle.

For more on drawing a line in the sand and putting your brand on it, see Brands Take a Stand from our Macro Trend The Currency of Dissent and Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing

Published: 28 Nov 2017

GDPR Myth-Busting

GDPR Forum, London

The GDPR Forum in London aimed to demystify GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations), an act coming into force in the EU in May 2018. GDPR imposes new rules around the use of personal data, which includes the sort of consumer data collected and processed by businesses and start-ups. "It's going to change the way you interact both as an individual and as an organisation online," said David Lockie, Founder & Director of UK digital agency Pragmatic.

All the speakers agreed that GDPR offers a big opportunity for marketers to get ahead of the scare stories and use the new regulations as a way of building stronger relationships with consumers.

"[Brands and] agencies have a role to play in safeguarding the people who use the services we build," commented Lockie. "We have a responsibility to help you limit your risks."

Key takeaways for brands in any industry:

  • Put people and process first: "There is no turnkey tech solution to GDPR compliance," said IT lawyer Dan Hedley. As such, brands need to stop thinking that "IT will sort it out" and ensure the implications and opportunities of GDPR are embraced at every level of your business.
  • You may need a Data Protection Officer: Privacy Technologist and Entrepreneur Gilbert Hill claimed there is a shortfall of 30,000 in the UK in the run-up to GDPR becoming law. Brands need to create a space where the DPO "is empowered and has sufficient independence to avoid conflicts of interest," said Hill, and to "foster a culture where data privacy is an inside job, and valued."
  • Don't obsess over consent: Many see GDPR as an obstacle for data-driven marketing, as consent for companies to use consumer data must be "freely given" and "specific and informed." Hedley suggested this is something of a red herring, as there are five other bases for processing personal data that will cover most marketers' activities, including "legitimate interests" (i.e. you have a legitimate business need that necessitates data capture).
  • Be a superhero brand: "Businesses who grasp this challenge [of GDPR] will find that it gives them superbrand powers," commented Hill. They need to be transparent with consumers about what's happening with the data they process, inform them in accessible language (GDPR should put an end to impenetrable T&Cs), and be able to return that data if the customer opts out.

See Dimensions of Trust for more on effective use of consumer data in marketing and advertising.