How Content Helps Agencies and Brands Thrive in a GDPR World


Over the last few months many of us around the world have noticed cookie opt-in calls to action on websites, emails on privacy policy updates, and other hints that something has changed online. On May 25th the European Union launched its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The regulation seeks to protect the online data of EU citizens while giving them ownership and portability of it. Any website that collects data from an EU citizen is responsible for complying or they could face heavy fines. It doesn’t matter which country the company is in.

Here’s a truncated list I put together earlier this year of a person’s “data bill of rights.”

Breach Notification – companies must notify individuals if their data has potentially been accessed.

Right to Access – companies must provide individuals with electronic access to their data.

Right to be Forgotten – businesses must delete and cancel all third-party processing of an individual’s data if requested.

Data Portability – individuals can request their data in a commonly used digital format and move it to another data controller.

Privacy by Design – calls for the inclusion of data protection from the onset of the designing of systems.

This is a challenging prospect for media buying agencies and brand advertisers who since last decade have been able to use third-party data from online users at scale very easily. This, in turn, has led to the commoditization of online data and traffic. It was predominantly led by online programmatic paid media buys for display, retargeting and search.

Because the data has been commoditized over the years the content on the other end of the click was commoditized, too. In fact, the content mostly resided down funnel and wouldn’t be considered content marketing today. More like a salesy landing page. The new regulation makes it more difficult to collect and use online tracking data and third-party data for programmatic paid media. As a result, the new regulation devalues the worth and use of this type of bottom-funnel content.

It actually makes content (in the top-funnel content marketing sense) more valuable than ever. GDPR represents an opportunity for both agencies and brands to up their content marketing offerings or deployments and distribute such content via native advertising that is GDPR compliant.

This top-funnel content is also a way to find and attract the right audience in lieu of using cookies and third-party data altogether. Prior to GDPR it was relatively easy to target lower-funnel, perhaps purchase-ready, consumers that weren’t already engaged with the brand.

With much of that capability gone for many marketers the idea of building an audience at the top of the funnel using content to harvest for lower-funnel prospects down the road suddenly becomes even more valuable. To be successful in this endeavor requires highly helpful and/or entertaining content. Its quality matters more now than ever. Anecdotally, I’ve had a handful of EU agency marketers communicate that they are indeed moving towards a content-first strategy precisely because of GDPR.

This added competition for top-funnel content attention will make personalization, contextual dialog and interactivity even more important for marketers. This type of content production comes at a premium, however. The demand for high quality content is also helping drive investments in high-dollar sponsored content from publishers.

The bottom line for agencies and brands is that the comoditization of data that has led to the commoditization of content is going away because of this and other similar legislation moving through governments around the world. A renewed focus on high-quality top-funnel content will allow marketers to create and build their own data base and audience. This represents an opportunity for both brands and agencies to take advantage of.

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