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The Latest from the ICO on GDPR in Digital Advertising

It was a pleasure to be a part of the Zero to Rezonence event this morning with the ICO’s Simon McDougall the headline act. It was a great industry event with Simon taking direct questions on the current state of play. The first obvious point is that everyone needs to read the ICO’s report into programmatic. He also reiterated that to stay clear of any penalties required not perfection, but to outrun the slowest of the pack to avoid being eaten by the Lion.

Next it looks increasingly likely, though still not quite ready to be declared universal, that legitimate interest is not going to fly as a reason for processing personal data. Simon repeated that their hold period on this was coming to an end this year and that legitimate interest was not something to be relied upon. This much we knew from the report and communication over the summer.

When it comes to the crucial use cases that digital marketing relies upon, tracking, re-targeting and indeed the broadcasting of IDs, it was stated that it was still too early to judge. That work was being done to establish a viewpoint on these use cases and would appear in due course. Clearly we would all like more clarity here but it was great to hear directly from the ICO that it was too early to view these behaviours as non-compliant. This uncertainty obviously makes it tough to invest in ad-tech but should at least avoid scaring away advertising money from the ecosystem.

As I mentioned on the panel. The industry has become too obsessed with 1:1 marketing. We will need to deal with a world where not all users have consented to their data being used but are still available to receive advertising. This world might be 10% off all digital inventory or it could be 90%, at this point we just don’t know. As such then it is vital that brands and publishers look to cover this world relying on contextual, potentially geo, time data and more overlaid with machine learning and/or AI.

The authenticated web received some attention as being a way forward. Learning from Google and particularly Facebook on the power of having email data with the proper consent. Its not easy for publishers to achieve this but where they can it should be able to dramatically increase yields.

Lastly though it is clear the industry just needs to keep talking. Publishers, advertisers and ad-tech can help each other out through open dialog with themselves, the industry bodies and the ICO. Those who are engaging with the problem, to utilise Simon’s analogy, are unlikely to be eaten by the lion.

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