A little creative thinking?

I, for one, am sick to death with the negativity around GDPR. I am challenging myself to write a regular piece about the benefits of GDPR (of which there are many).

I reiterate; I, for one, am sick to death with the negativity around GDPR.

Further, I am aggravated by newly-minted data privacy ‘consultants’ prefixing every comment with “Ah… But – €20m…” with a sly, knowing wink as shorthand for “I am about to invoice you to hell for consultancy of dubious quality…”

One of the areas which has raised my ire in recent weeks is the plaintive cry that ‘that nasty EU is depriving people in Marketing’ of the use of private data, namely email addresses.

I appreciate that email dates back to the mid-90’s as a usable tool for addressing prospects and customers, but it has been used lazily, it has been used by spammers and it has been used as a shield against actually having to understand customers.

“You can’t take my contacts list!”

… a comment I’ve heard on a number of occasions.

Why? Why not? I’ve yet to come across anyone (myself included) who curates their personal contacts list to see whether it is still accurate and valid, to see whether people whose business cards seemingly appeared from the ether in my wallet still want to contact me, or for me to contact them.

GDPR is like the responsible adult telling unruly children that pulling Jennifer’s ponytail isn’t nice and that Brian is just as capable of kicking a football as anyone else, even though his trainers are not “dope” (that’s me getting “Home with the downies” in terms of current hip slang… I’m sure I left my coat around here somewhere…)

For those who cling to their 2,000/20,000/10,000,000 email addresses in the contacts list, the barrier to entry for advertising ‘stuff’ has simply been adding those addresses to a CC: list in order to flog something (hopefully, BCC, so that we aren’t sharing everyone’s email address).

Bringing in a regulation that demands that people, y’know, actually take care of someone else’s personal data is way overdue.

Anyone crying that their world is coming to an end, take it from someone who (gasp!) was working before the Internet came into operation – people sold stuff very successfully prior to the advent of email. No one wandered into a shop and inexplicably walked out with the keys to a Morris Marina and a ticket on Concorde to New York. People saw – and responded in their multitudes – to undirected advertising. And they bought things.

The first person to buy an IBM PC didn’t buy it in response to an email.

What seems to be missing here is an appreciation that advertising works. Good advertising works wonders. Older readers will remember “Go to work on an egg” or “Naughty, but nice” – taglines which even now conjure up images of the Egg Marketing Board and fresh cream cakes.

“Naughty, but nice” was a phrase created by Salman Rushdie for Ogilvy and Mather, so it’s obviously not just a case of throwing words together and praying…

How many people can remember an email from ten years ago – ten weeks even – which caught the attention so vividly and burned a message in to a huge audience?

Don Draper? We need you!

Will GDPR see the re-elevation of the advertising agency? I think that there may be an opportunity for people who have relied on the easy route of blasting out email to engage with a market which has proved, time and again, to be suckers for a good advertising campaign. It doesn’t have to be an expensive, Saatchi mini-epic featuring A-list celebrities in order to get attention, as evidenced by:


You buy one, you get one free! I said – you buy one, you get one free!

Regardless of your views on double-glazing, the advertising campaign for SafeStyle Windows stuck in the memory through TV, radio and newspaper adverts. Their emails? Straight to junk mail.

It is often (incorrectly) quoted that the Chinese have the same word for “Crisis” and “Opportunity”. I believe that there is a huge swell of people who are in crisis mode and not looking at the opportunities which can come from changing tack.

The hit rate for email marketing is neither here nor there with GDPR as it offers pitfalls around consent and legitimate interest, which anyone with any reason will seek to avoid.

Place an advert. Let people come to you. They are self-selecting leads and – they have made a soft opt-in to your advertising campaign!

What about if no one responds? Well, would they have responded to an email? Is your advertising any good? Is your product any good?

The era of mass emailing people who may have glanced at a web page will soon be gone.

My advice – for what it’s worth – is to go for undirected advertising, make the adverts interesting, attractive and engaging and let potential leads show themselves.

These adverts will be more valuable than the reputation-rubbishing effect of sending spam to someone every twenty minutes. I know companies from whom I wouldn’t buy a lifebelt in a flood because of the way they throw crap messaging at me through any means to get to my mailbox.

Mass advertising, to reach a wider audience… who might buy something.

It does what it says on the tin.

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