One month until GDPR D-Day: brands still fear future

dataWith just one month to go until the biggest overhaul of data protection legislation in a generation, marketers at major multinationals have a significantly greater awareness of GDPR but over half admit are still at a loss to understand how the changes will affect future campaigns.
The May 25 D-Day is now engrained on most marketers’ minds, according to a new by the World Federation of Advertisers, which found that 98% of respondents believe that marketers in their organisations are either aware or actively working on GDPR, compared to 76% in the WFA’s last survey in July 2017.
However, the survey also found that while many marketers have at least a basic understanding of the GDPR, many still have significant gaps in their knowledge.
Some 41% of brand owners feel that marketers in their organisations are fully aware of the implications of the GDPR for future marketing campaigns – an improvement on just 24% in July 2017 – leaving over half (52%) of marketers with major knowledge gaps.
The WFA’s GDPR Survey is based on responses, collected in March and April 2018, from 34 multinational companies, spending in excess of $65bn on marketing communications across a wide variety of sectors including food, automotive, toys, banking, airline and telecoms.
Two in three respondents were in global roles, and respondents had a range of job titles across marketing, media, legal, regulatory/compliance and digital governance.
Despite the knowledge gaps, the research found that marketing is one of the most engaged areas of many businesses with the GDPR. Only legal and regulatory/compliance departments are perceived to be more active on the GDPR than marketers.
The implications of the GDPR for business – failure to comply exposes brands to the risk of heavy fines and reputational damage – are also much more well understood.
Some 95% of respondents said that implementing the GDPR is important for their organiSation and over 70% said it is critically important. This is a significant increase from WFA’s previous survey 2017, when 82% of respondents said the GDPR was important with 59% saying it was critically important.
The results also reveal that the top three priorities for brand owners are currently to:
– Review procedures to handle individuals’ requests related to their personal data (erasing or rectifying data). This is the highest area of “high priority” responses (69%) from the survey but it also scored lowest in terms of implementation (12%).
– Review contracts with third parties such as agencies (64%). Companies must ensure responsible data use across the entire digital advertising value chain.
– Review and update records of data processing activities (62%). Piecing together global companies’ data processing activities is a crucial part of operationalizing the GDPR.
WFA chief executive Stephan Loerke said: “It’s perhaps unsurprising to see how marketers are approaching the challenge of compliance with GDPR with greater urgency than before. Our previous survey showed that there was a knowledge gap among marketers but it seems that the pace of work has dramatically improved since 2017.”
When it comes to actually dealing with the new regulation, 90% of respondents said their companies were carrying out training or internal communications. Meanwhile half (50%) are increasing or planning to increase recruitment of data protection specialists or external consultants to help them handle the GDPR.
Loerke concluded: “GDPR is challenging marketers and indeed many other roles to change their data culture and their systems of managing consumer data. But GDPR represents a great opportunity to adopt a mindset of ‘people first’ rather than ‘data first’ across the entire organisation.”
Last week, the WFA is published a Manifesto for Online Data Transparency in an effort to get brands to overhaul their approach to data. Developed by leading brands including Unilever, Mars, Shell and Danone, the organisation has hailed the initiative as a rallying cry to embrace the spirit of GDPR – and go beyond compliance – at a global level.

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