How will GDPR affect Arabian Gulf marketers?

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The digital communications sector, which is so dynamic in nature, can often struggle with the same inertia facing more traditional sides of this industry.

While consumers continue to book flights and purchase broadband packages via artificial intelligence (AI), advertisers and agencies globally still struggle with basic aspects of cross-channel and cross-device attribution.


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In pockets, there is certainly some clear progress, but holistically, true attribution challenges will not disappear in the short-term.

Facebook becoming increasingly focused on direct response with more recent feature releases has certainly intensified aspects of attribution for DoubleClick-centric agencies.

Voice search also poses its own set of challenges. Voice-first devices are evolving rapidly and surging in sales.

All these factors are leading to a voice search boom. By 2020, the likes of Gartner predicts 30% of all searches will be screen less, Comscore go with 50%. That’s less than two years away! Hard to believe that ad platform segmentation and optimization is still really lagging and not seeing the same development or feature launch trajectory. Needless to say, it is still very important to use relatively vintage methods to infer voice search intelligence.


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Impact of GDPR

Without a doubt, there is a clear and voracious appetite for audience intelligence and personalization shining right through from the client-side. Previously this was very much agency driven, more often than not the route to client CRM data was laden with obstacles and barriers with many very hesitant to integrate with major platforms.

As audience capabilities expand, embed and truly become a critical success factor, more and more brands have become a lot more data savvy and now audience strategies are top of conversation and a primary demand from marketers.

For European Based clients, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is definitely top of mind. GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation is a new set of EU regulations set to come into force, as a replacement to the existing Data Protection Act.


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GDPR will come into effect on May 25 and will make the year ahead an interesting one for data and audience handling. The big change is looming and, with this, the potential data slow-down effects need to be monitored closely. Data slow-down comes in the shape of audience consent historically and going forward.

New consent will be required to hold personal data and fines for non-compliance and are severe, ranging up to 20 million Euros or 4% of global annual turnover, whichever is greater!.

Evolving strategies

On another note, there is an aggressive push by search engines for full-blown automation across areas such as paid search. This is a positive move and while AI and machine learning based automation can be incredibly efficient, implementing these strategies must be done and handled with caution and care.

It’s also crucial that Account Managers are aware of where a dynamic strategy is taking them. Whether its dynamic ad grammar, compromising brand credibility or a dynamic bid strategy relinquishing brand defense, the experience is still crucial. An Account Manager’s skills need to be on-point with everything on their radar.

There is a continuous build-up and an appetite for audience segmentation. Data Management Platform (DMP) exploration and acquisition seem to be on the shopping list for large enterprises and SMBs. It’s a big decision that needs the right internal post-acquisition team in place as specialist outsourcing costs can be crippling.


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Data is only valuable if the right individuals are able to leverage its potential to generate revenue. It is also equally important to not run before you can walk, a lot of programmatic partners offer extremely advanced segmentation options that can bridge the gap and allow advertisers to dip their toe in the water.

Automation and machine learning are generating a lot of buzz, especially after Google repackaged automated bid strategies under the Smart Bidding label. Enquiries received around these themes have definitely increased, but often don’t realize that the key bidding strategies under the Smart Bidding label go back as far as 2007 with the launch of Conversion Optimizer.

There is no doubt that these strategies have improved massively over the years though, and are an absolutely critical part of the majority of effective Adwords & DoubleClick-related strategies.

Challenges for the Gulf

In the GCC, there is an expectation to see more emphasis on building transformational strategies for those struggling to make the shift to digital, re-calibrating what success looks like to fit less transactional brands.

Creative influence from AI will intensify to maximize personalization. Not enough advertisers are taking advantage of the vast creative combinations that dynamic personalization offers. Personalization drives engagement and engagement drives revenue. This needs to be a focus.


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Out-of-home (OOH), a massive portion of total ad spend in the Middle East, needs to react to a slight decline of late. Expediting digital OOH buying, activation and integration with online media campaigns is something that is expected to gain at least a little more traction in the next year.

Brand safety has been an issue for a number of years and 2017 saw this topic peak. Ads showing against “questionable and unsafe content” saw huge UK brands and major global agencies halt all display ad spend across the Google Display Network and YouTube.

2018 will see more of a commitment to higher standards, whitelisting and highly customizable brand safety solutions across the display and social.

Attribution will, of course, continue to be a huge focus across all channels. Google Attribution will bring more data to all business sizes expediting the move for many stalling advertisers to data-driven-attribution as default.

By Ryan Garner, Head of Paid Media, RBBi