Brand Britain


How will Brexit impact Britain’s direct marketing community? Alice Harding reports

The uncertainty of Brexit has tested relationships between friends, families, colleagues, flatmates and strangers alike. Social media has been a huge platform for the average person’s voice and online friendship ties have been broken on the balance of differing opinions.

It seemed for a while that the rest of the world would turn its back on Britain should we brave it alone, but now that the public have spoken and independence has been gained, it appears, at face value at least, that not a huge amount has changed.

It will of course, however, have some consequences, from hugely public political alterations to our international relations, trade deals and immigration laws… to household products many of us buy on a weekly basis.

For marketers, particularly those in direct marketing, the long-term affects have yet to be realised. The main question within the direct marketing community currently hangs over the issue of compliance and data protection. Previously Britain adhered to the policies set out by the EU and should we have remained, we were to then abide by the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that is coming into force within the EU on 25 May 2018.

The GDPR will have a relatively big impact on direct marketing because it will change the way that companies can collect data from consumers and the way in which they can then share it.

The main premise is about consent. Consent from the consumer to collect their details with very clear guidelines as to what will be done with those details in the future.

The new definition of consent within the GDPR looks like this:

“Consent should be given by a clear affirmative act establishing a freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her, such as by a written statement, including by electronic means, or an oral statement.” (Recital 32)

This means that there should be no more “opt-out” boxes whereby consumers tick a box if they don’t want to receive any more marketing materials from the company and/or they don’t want their details shared. Moving forward, a business can only collect, keep and use a person’s information if they have actively and knowingly ticked a box to give their consent.

The repercussions could have a huge effect on direct marketing. In the past few years, research has shown that only 30% of consumers give explicit consent to receive more marketing information and to have their details shared with third parties. Should this “opt in” approach become mandatory it could cut down the data that direct marketers have to plan with, by 70%.

While you could argue that at least the data collected will be extremely focused and targeted at an audience happy to receive the materials, thereby cutting wastage, it will reduce the reach significantly, and therefore potentially decrease the ability to gain new customers and retain historical ones.

Although it is an EU initiative and therefore we should in theory now be unaffected by it, this is not the case. It seems, as with many other worries that people had with the leave campaign, that in reality, not a huge amount will change regarding our relationship with the EU.

Should we, as direct marketers want to do business with the EU in the future, we will have to follow these guidelines anyway, or at least write our own which are similar.

“The Data Protection Act remains the law of the land irrespective of the referendum result. If the UK is not part of the EU, then upcoming EU reforms to data protection law would not directly apply to the UK. But if the UK wants to trade with the Single Market on equal terms we would have to prove ‘adequacy’ – in other words UK data protection standards would have to be equivalent to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation framework starting in 2018” – Information Commissioners Office (ICO) statement on Brexit result.

So in actual fact, whether the result of the referendum had been to stay OR go, the landscape of direct marketing is evolving. We, as marketers will need to constantly come up with new incentives and creative ways of reaching a wider audience and collecting data within the new guidelines. Challenge accepted I say!

As Adam & Eve/DDB’s James Murphy said this week: “The Swiss are recognised as the best watchmakers in the world, regardless of their position outside the European Union. Now we need to redouble our efforts to be strategically and creatively the best advertising centre of excellence in the world.”

Time to look forward, then, to focus on the industry’s strengths and on upping our collective game

Read more here