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Are we missing the potential upside of GDPR?

There are currently more questions than answers in this space...


Will Hughes




Are Consent Management Platforms trying too hard to maintain the status quo?

There is no doubt that Consent Management Platforms (CMPs) are now a must-have for most websites operating in Europe, and the general consensus is that cookies need to be switched off by default until a user gives their consent for them to fire.

Initially, this caused heart palpitations across the marketing community, especially when the ICO shared that after implementing its ‘best practice’ CMP it saw a 90% drop in measurable traffic via analytics:

“In response to a Freedom of Information request, the ICO says that after implementing its own best practices it has seen a ninety percent drop in traffic measurable via analytics, implying a ninety percent drop in opt-in rates.” - Tim Cross, Video Ad News

Marketers now need to consider how measurement and analytics as well as targeting and personalisation cookies are deployed. Since the ICO’s announcement in June 2019, most of the conversation has revolved around gaining as much consent as possible to sustain existing tactics, but this may be missing the point.

There are two conflicting considerations in this blog post:

Measurement and analytics cookies

The first is how very little incentive exists to be the first of your peer group to effectively switch off measurement and analytics cookies.

Advertisers are playing chicken with each other commercially, trying to sustain data visibility for as long as possible. The huge risk with this tactic is the potential fines the ICO could wield, either 4% of revenue or €20,000,000 from January 2020 onward. It is worth noting here that the ICO are likely to target the largest companies first, offering clear warnings to brands and advertisers who they feel are not compliant before fining.

No commercially-minded marketer will be in a rush to lose data visibility. Most will be building a CMP or working with a CMP provider to design a user experience that achieves the lowest drop off rate possible – getting users to hit the ‘accept all’ button without thinking too much. When viewed purely from a measurement perspective, this makes perfect sense.

Marketing and personalisation cookies

The second conflicting consideration in this blog sits with marketing and personalisation cookies, which muddy the water when it comes to consent and are one of the primary reasons why GDPR has been implemented.

Most marketers would say that measurement and analytics are not intrusive, in fact even anonymised analytics create better user experiences without intruding on privacy. However, it is harder for marketers to say that personalisation and targeting cookies are not intrusive.

In the post-Cambridge Analytica landscape, no brand wants to be associated with unscrupulous tactics – especially following recent studies on falling effectiveness from hyper-targeted campaigns and research into ‘annoying ads’ that specifically reference retargeting and creepy personalisation.

“If brands and advertisers are going to rebuild – and retain – the trust of their audiences, we need to see more responsible use of data across the industry.” - Mark Inskip, CEO at Kantar Media

Instead, there is greater value in data that is given willingly by a highly engaged audience. The intent-signals a user provides when they give a brand permission to advertise to them is underestimated. Conversely the amount of data points collected from users who only take a passing interest in a brand is overvalued. This makes consent a major consideration in targeting strategies for 2020 and beyond.

Summarising the conflict

On the one hand we want users to seamlessly accept all cookies for measurement and analytics purposes. This will help us to create better user experiences and more efficient media strategies. But on the other hand, we want to gain informed consent from highly engaged users for marketing and personalisation. We would argue that the ICO’s rules on measurement and analytics are too stringent, but that is a fruitless argument to have. We need to play the hand we are dealt.

At IMA-HOME, our focus for 2020 will be to play the CMP game and work with UX and design to ensure minimum opt-in drop off. This means we can continue to quantify our marketing efforts.

For marketing and personalisation we will be looking to gain permission whilst moving away from cookies. Working closely with our Digital Experience team, our Comms team and our clients, we will be looking to create value propositions where users can see how giving permission for further conversation will improve their experience with the brand.

Technically, we will be working with CRM systems and knowledge graphs to manage consent and reach users in a GDPR compliant manner. Along with the duopoly, companies like LiveRamp, Salesforce Audience Studio, ID5 and InfoSum will become more important in our tech stack as a result.

This isn’t a quick win. It will be achieved through a managed test and learn strategy, with campaigns needing to be agile whilst the landscape changes both legislatively and technically.

We will also be increasing our focus on non-data driven strategies, specifically context. By diversifying risk away from data-heavy tactics, we will ensure a baseline of performance should the ecosystem dramatically shift again.

There are currently more questions than answers in this space. The important thing is to have a partner who can work though the changing landscape with you. At IMA-HOME we have a cross-discipline thinktank set up to stay abreast of these changes, address the challenges and constantly look for the opportunities they present – tweet us.

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