Data, privacy, and us; the fight for information

If we ever thought knowledge was power, we were clearly misinformed. It’s not the knowledge of the cosmos or the history of Troy that’s powerful, but rather, the collection of personal data that has become the new trading currency in our modern world. Marketers, businesses, and even the casual salesperson on the street are all engaged in a battle of data to gain as much personal information as they possibly can to hit targets, KPIs or revenue quotas. We collect and horde data like it’s the last tin of beans in a post-apocalyptic world, and as we sit in the wake of the GDPR legislation, perhaps this is the post-apocalyptic landscape that marketing is experiencing.

For the last year there’s been a constant flow of articles, survival guides if you will, on exactly what GDPR is, what it includes and what you can do to get around it, but perhaps we’ve been asking the wrong question all along. Instead of looking for loopholes and evading legislative change, shouldn’t we be fighting to put greater power into the hands of consumers, instead of trying to praise it from their grasp with the assumption that we know best? Of course, the counter argument to that is that sometimes marketers do know best, because if we consider mental availability and a connected shopper journey, then surely some consumers don’t know what they want until we place it in their inbox or use their IP address to flash it across their screens. We’ve worked in retail long enough to know that the giants of this industry aren’t particularly keen on handing that much power back to the consumer, essentially because it will make their lives invariably harder. It will also serve as the call to step up to so many and let us just entertain the idea for a moment that perhaps the latest data protection laws could be the renaissance for the marketing and advertising world.

We spend so much time complaining about lazy marketing and uninspiring advertising campaigns, and with so much access to the consumer, because of the masses of data that sits in the palm of our hands, there isn’t really a need for too much creativity or genius. When you already have their eye, because you have their email address and consent, you’re not really stretching your creative capacity to catch that eye, and so the result can be below par content.

Let us, for a moment, look on the bright side of life and assume that even when buyers don’t give their consent, and ask to be opted out of the mailing lists and the campaigns, and they don’t even want to see your name flash across their screen, perhaps it will push us all to become a flurry of innovation and creativity. Perhaps we’ll discover new avenues of invention and find more exciting ways to build relationships with consumers and catch their eyes. Perhaps we’ll become daring and brave in our campaigns and maybe, just maybe, it might bring out some of our best work yet. Perhaps it is just another creative period, and if some of the best painters and artists came out of the last renaissance, surely, we’ll begin to see the best ad agencies emerge and maybe it will take us all into our very own age of enlightenment.

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