The strategist's view: Stale cookies, hacked fridges, stolen credit cards - digital marketing rules and regulation in a post-Prism world


By: Danny Meadows-Klue

Most of the time marketers are in their comfort zone when it comes to marketing rules, regulations and company policies – but take one look at digital and it can feel easier to get things wrong than right. Danny Meadows-Klue is a Commissioner for the regulation of marketing in the UK, and helped create many of the industry codes on digital marketing. Here he guides marketers through a few easy steps they can take to avoid the common pitfalls.

Danny Meadows-KlueThe challenge is the breadth of topics. When brands move into digital marketing they become publishers, conversation creators, retailers and data analysts. It’s a long way from the familiar world of advertising, and that’s where the problems start. But it’s not just marketers, governments are finding it tough to adjust.

Brand publishers should think smartly

When brands become publishers they need to think like publishers. Ensuring you have the relevant rights for the materials you’re using is a mandatory, but unlike the rights for a TVC which may be restricted to the current year or certain geographies, in the world of digital, the needs are different. Start with a simple healthcheck:

• Review the content you’re creating and the agency partners involved so you know who to talk with

• Consider the elements of the assets you make (such as the music, actors, celebrities and locations in a film)

• Build a ‘rights policy’ that’s appropriate, considering concepts such as non-exclusive rights to material, having rights that last forever, and rights that are channel agnostic (if you have ‘website rights’ for a piece of celebrity content and then want to use it on Facebook, do you really want to pay again?)

Personal data privacy has big implications

Government web spying revelations shocked the world last year, and the impact on digital marketing regulation and user data is only starting to show. From Angry Birds data leaks to the recent hacked smart fridges - as gadgets become a greater part of consumer’s lifestyles, the data they generate becomes more valuable and more exploitable.

On a global scale we are witnessing the great privacy trade-off as brands and consumers tread a fine balance to swap personal data for free content and services. Ideally, better data collection should lead to more relevant and cost-efficient ads served online, but the reality is this doesn’t always match up with the consumers’ experience.

Digital marketers will need to work harder to earn their trust. Start with a simple healthcheck:

• Find out where your organisation gets customer data, and the partners who are involved

• Check the current permissions used to obtain personal data reflect current and anticipated use

• Check that this is transparent to the consumer

• Check data storage and data security best practice is in place

Consumers are increasingly savvy about behavioural advertising through media owners

For marketers looking to target and understand their audience online, the options are growing, but the rules are increasingly tight in most markets. Facebook and YouTube channels and ads are still plagued by 'fake likes', potentially driving up the cost of legitimate social media marketing campaigns. ‘Do-Not-Track’ is becoming the default option for some web browsers (challenging the potential for cookies), and Google’s own rules are changing as they continue to hide key parts of the analytics data from marketers (when you think about rules and regulations, always consider the self-created rules of the power players like Facebook, Google and Apple).

If it’s a new area for your brand or your agency, then try these simple steps to familiarise yourself:

• Find out which types of behavioural targeting are in place at the moment

• Check which regulations apply to this type of data and ensure your partners comply – the compliance team of a reliable partner will effortlessly be able to prove this

• Learn about the quality of the data profiles and how they are made up (this will help you understand the implications in terms of marketing effectiveness)

• Listen astutely for any negative feedback from consumers, and escalate quickly as one complaint may be symptomatic of a failure in a business process (such as the unsubscribe process on email or a screening of phone numbers against a suppression file)

The challenge for marketers is to adapt to this changing digital landscape and look for the new consumer behaviour signals that will drive the industry into the next decade. Online advertisers have been improving upon more sophisticated methods for years: authenticated tracking, browser fingerprinting, cross-device tracking and more. But all will come with new regulation challenges - rather than simply deleting cookies, consumers might have to throw away a device, forsake a social network or delete a rich archive of emails.

How marketers navigate this tricky path between relevant ads and privacy invasions will become key to building long term relationships with consumers- and long term repeat business.

Danny Meadows-Klue is the founder of the Digital Strategy Consulting group that advises brands and companies on their social media strategy. He is a Commissioner for the regulation of marketing in the UK, and President of the Digital Training Academy where his team train marketers on best practice for digital marketing, and design processes for organisations using digital channels. You can reach him at

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