Could new EU laws be the death of targeted marketing and big data?

The new proposed EU overhaul of the way consumer data protection is regulated would rule out any contact that isn’t expressly permitted by your potential customer, which would mean an end of targeted ads of any kind – mobile, online, direct mail, telephone marketing and any other method used. Bad news for the digital and direct industry, maybe good news for big media and press who could benefit.

It will also affect analytics as it reclassify internet users’ IP addresses as ‘private information’, so marketers will only have very basic information to work with and analyse.

Profiling will also be hit as you won’t be able to target advertising at specific consumer profiles, and it prevents you gathering consumers data without their explicit permission, so making it difficult to tailor your brand experience to them personally. With limited depth of data and insight the ability to learn about consumers behavior and personalise marketing will be hit hard.

The empowerment of consumers means they can demand total lifelong deletion form databases, once gone they will be gone forever. Long term this could make databases almost impossible to build and as dead as a dodo.

Managing your databases under these new laws will be difficult and expensive. You’ll need new data systems, keep detailed compliance records and there’s going to be lots of bureaucracy. Would else would you expect fro the EU?

Which could mean brands will resort back to more traditional tried and tested mediums like outdoor and TV. Or, we’ll have to reinvent digital.

Not surprisingly, many of the trade bodies and other business groups are concerned: Direct Marketing Association (DMA), Advertising Association, Internet Advertising Bureau, Federation of Direct Marketing Associations (FEDMA), Industry Coalition for Data Protection (ICDP), The Industry Coalition for Data Protection (ICDP), Confederation of British Industry and a number of MPs have challenged and questioned the rigid nature of these proposed regulations.

Overall it sets the digital and direct marketing industry back a generation, leaving it shooting in the dark.

No one disagrees that the 1995 European Data Protection Directive (implemented into UK by 1998 Data Protection Act) needs to be updated and bought into the digital world, but the marketing industry in general is not happy about the possible damaging effects upon the industry both in terms of effectiveness and economics.

There will be groups of consumers who will applaud these new regulations, who think marketers have gone to far and have far too much access to consumer data, and especially dislike how they are tracked across the web, and the amount of data being stored on them. Seeing it as  an end to the ‘Big Brother Big Data Society’.

On one level we could blame ourselves for feeding like hyenas on consumer data and taking too much advantage of digital technology. And for excessive junk advertising at consumers.

As we move to using our smart phones, more than our PCs, there’s a big debate about how long will it take before the ads become too intrusive as every brand plans a mass assault on consumers believing the mobile phone is the new marketing playground. Few brands ask if the consumer want to be bombarded with targeted messages, vouchers, offers and the like. But these new rules could put an end to all this.

The question is, does the marketing industry have a bigger right to sell to consumers or consumers a bigger right not to be sold to?

If marketing was moderated more, consumers would appreciate it more, but once a channel is opened you don’t get a trickle of messages but a tsunami.

Look at direct mail, the financial institutes trashed the medium with their endless piles of junk mail until the web came along and offered them the chance to create junk digital ads for less. Now direct mail is seen as a quality medium again.

MPS and TPS has shown that the majority of the public, when given a choice, prefer not to get unsolicited marketing materials. Even if we do like offers, the onslaught of marketing material is not popular. The excessive amount marketing material on Hotmail drove a generation onto Facebook, Twitter and BBM.

Ad blocking software like Mozilla’s AdBlockerPlus is very popular and growing, even being in advertising I have installed it on all my systems to keep the ads away.

Of course those that like to ignore regulations will carry on anyway, so the less moral and the criminal elements will carry on unabaited.

The DMA is currently championing the marketing industry’s cause and are encouraging everyone to lobby their MPs to make these new regulations less restrictive and less damaging. They certainly have  a case, the regs are fat to dragonian.

DMA research shows that complying with the proposed regulation could cost companies an average of £76,000 each. It estimates a total loss to UK industry of up to £47 billion in lost sale – not good for an industry already under pressure.

Even MPs are concern.

Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey: ?“Britain’s creative industries and the strength of its online economy are the envy of Europe. This Regulation puts at risk the innovation which drives online business and creative content and it’s particularly important for the UK that we address this. We must find a way to protect consumers that doesn’t undermine some of our most valuable sectors.”


Justice Minister, Helen Grant: ?“As technology advances, data protection rules must keep up but European legislators must balance these new rules against the risk of undermining UK businesses in the process. Governments, regulators and industry should be co-operating on proportionate rules to reassure and protect consumers.”


Matthew Fell, CBI Director for Competitive Markets: ?“In an increasingly digital age, it is important that consumers and employees are confident of their data protection rights, and this is also in businesses’ interests. However, at a time when we should be boosting business confidence and encouraging innovation in digital services, these proposals will interfere with the relationship between businesses and their customers, and only add to costs”.

If you want to read more, follow these links.

To find out more visit the DMA’s website:

To lobby your MP visit