The formula for modern marketing success: why we welcome the GDPR

On the 25th of May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect. Worryingly, a recent World Federation of Advertisers survey reveals that 70% of brand owners felt the marketers in their organisations are still not fully aware of the implications of the new European data laws.

The report shows that 65% of respondents said they expected to be fully compliant before the rules come into force, while a quarter said they were still in the initial planning stages. Businesses that are found to be in breach of the GDPR laws could face fines of €20m, or 4% of global turnover, whichever is greater.

In addition, the UK’s Data Protection Bill was updated recently, after almost a decade. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport introduced the bill and believes it will make UK laws fit for the digital age. Not only will it implement GDPR standards across all data processing, giving people more control over the use of their data, it will also hold businesses to account with stronger sanctions for malpractice.  

While many businesses might be in the early stages of panic at the thought of all the above, we’re delighted.

Use an approach that doesn’t rely on cookies

Under the GDPR, cookies are considered personal data. Not all the cookies, just the ones that can be used to profile and identify a user. The cookies that advertisers use to target consumers with advertising. 

We don't see this as a negative. We welcome GDPR, as it will reduce the amount of mindless retargeting of irrelevant ads, in irrelevant moments for the consumer, at frequency levels that are both cannibalistic and wasteful for the advertiser. You know, the shoes that follow you around even after you’ve bought them, telling you what an amazing purchase they are, but you already know because you have them. You might even be wearing them! 

Our approach does not require cookies. We can use data to build predictive models, where the application of the approach does not require personally identifiable information in its execution.

Through connected, anonymous data, these predictive models are used to place a value on content, against audience attributes that are useable. We can target based on engagement in that content and deliver it to new audiences using anonymised data in context - rather than delivering advertising messages back to individuals which, pending on permissions of the user, would constitute a flagrant breach of GDPR.

It’s about content, audience and timing. It’s about delivering communications that enhance consumer experience, in context, of the content they are seeking or reading, that are relevant to their needs.

Be smart and insert efficiency into consumer interactions

A combination of old-school direct marketing and cutting-edge tech is the only way to effectively target consumers. This requires brands to start backwards – the last thing marketers would normally think of doing. It moves towards outcomes-based planning by looking at the behaviour brands are seeking and then finding it. It allows a connection between editorial content and the audience.

We know that the content a user is reading or seeking is the most indicative predictive variable. This led to a categorisation of editorial content and advertising copy, and we use this data to allow brands to place relevant offers to predictively profitable consumers.

Conceptually, it’s not rocket science. If I have a friend who wants to go on holiday, I might suggest a location that I think they would love. It might be a place that’s outside of their usual tastes. For example, instead of that package holiday in Corfu, I could suggest island hopping in Greece. I’m serving a need, based on information or signals that I have, geared toward the needs of that friend, ahead of another person.

These signals we discover are not always as obvious as this ‘friend asking for holiday advice’, so we use machine learning and AI against content and the needs of the consumer, which allows us to identify pre-sales triggers automatically. These machines read the content consumers are reading, anonymously identify what they post online and then predict how likely a signal is to turn into a sale.

It’s about having more efficient conversations with the customer. The approach may use AI and machine learning, but it’s a process that is rooted in marketing discipline. 

Common sense marketing, at scale, in real time

The technology we employ is doing no more than trying to understand the needs of consumers. Most of the answers are common sense and understandable – our technology allows us to create this at scale, and in real-time.

For example, our work with The Army – which recently picked up three BIMA Awards for data excellence - not only identified the barriers to joining the army but also the key moments of reconsideration in candidates’ lives. These include occasions such as birthdays, “I’m 21 and I’m still stacking shelves”, the back to school period, “My friends are going to college and I’m stuck here”, or the sense of belonging, “I spend my life supporting football team, I need my own team”.

After we have identified these signals and placed a value on them, we can listen for new signals from lookalike audiences and target them across digital channels, with the most appropriate message at the right time, while also understanding their barriers.

The approach delivers profitable advertising around relevant content in the context of the consumer’s wider, or predicted needs. If they are looking at an article on car safety, then serving an ad that majors on performance is probably a mistake. Again, it’s common sense.

Pre-targeting not retargeting. Making your conversion funnel better, and response funnel efficient, allows you to create and distribute content to reach consumers before the competition. This will grow your market share at that point, stopping you spending a disproportionate amount of money close to conversion, which cannibalises marketing.

The updated Data Protection Bill is adding a new addition to the principles set out in 1998. According to the minister of state for digital, Matthew Hancock, it’s the principle of accountability. 

Brands should be accountable for their advertising and how it’s targeted. GDPR should not only signal a change in how brands use customer data, but the outdated tactics they use to engage consumers. Advertising should be relevant, it should serve a need, and only then will it be effective.

Ignition AI digital marketing solutions

Ignition AI is able to offer advanced digital marketing solutions to its clients with speed, scale and security by using Microsoft Azure.
For brands looking to spend their marketing budget efficiently it’s no longer sufficient to put money into areas they hope will work, only to find out later on that they haven’t made any return on their investment.
In the digital world, they need to take a much more scientific approach to optimise their spending power. This means collecting as much live data about their customers as possible and combining this with the latest advances in machine learning to predict future consumer behaviour.
That’s where companies such as Ignition AI come in. Using advanced algorithms developed by its engineers, it is able to create powerful tools that can cut waste and optimise marketing for brands such as Mr and Mrs Smith and eHarmony.
As a result, advertisers aren’t spending their increasingly tight budgets on media that simply doesn’t work and customers aren’t seeing irritating ads for products they’ve no intention of buying.
“There’s nothing more annoying for customers than retargeting ads chasing you around the internet trying to sell you a pair of shoes you may already own or a holiday you’ve already taken,” explains Ignition AI’s founder and CEO, James Harrison.
To alleviate these annoyances, Ignition AI is able to provide technology that analyses how people engage with a brand through various digital media whether that’s advertising or branded content. It is then able to assess how much that individual is worth to the company based on the actions they have taken so far and predict the actions that they are likely to take in the future.
“The technology enables us to understand the value of communication to a person at any point of time across any devices and with any content,” says Mr Harrison. “Basically we are using all the information we have to help a brand decide what they are going to say, how much they are going to pay, and what platform they should use.
Importantly, rather than analysing the last click that a customer makes when buying a product, Ignition AI’s technology is able to use algorithms to analyse the entire customer journey. It is then able to work out the value of different media to the brand at each stage of the purchasing decision, says Mr Harrison. “The danger with just analysing the last click is that you can overinvest your marketing spend in the wrong areas.”
In the fast past world of digital marketing, innovation is of paramount importance. Whereas solutions for clients used to be valid for years, the speed of technological change means that new problems are emerging all the time.
“Digital is hypercompetitive and we have to innovate really quickly to create success not only for our business but also for our clients,” says Mr Harrison. “We spend most of our time looking at what’s going on and trying to identify new problems that we can design a solution for.”
Instead of investing millions of pounds on its own server which would need to be updated on a regular basis, Ignition AI is using Microsoft Azure in a cloud-based solution that enables it to focus its resources on its clients.
The Microsoft Azure solution combines a platform that can store, manage and process billions of data points from all over the world on a daily basis, with an analytics platform that can be used to build the algorithms needed to make sense of this data for its clients.
Furthermore, Ignition AI does not have to worry about cybersecurity threats, which is an increasing concern for digital companies, especially those with data on millions of individuals. Instead it can rely on Microsoft to provide the latest security provisions and upgrades to keep the data safe, as well as helping to make is easier to ensure compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
“We willingly trust Microsoft; they can run patches, they learn quickly and have a huge team,” says Mr Harrison. “More and more, we don’t know why threats are happening but what we do know is that Microsoft is pretty damned secure – much more so than we could be on our own.”
By leaving much of the security and administrative heavy lifting to a supplier, Ignition AI is able to build its technology and integrate it really easily within the systems of global partners – something it would not be able to do if it were using its own server solutions.
By concentrating on a cloud service on Microsoft Azure, Mr Harrison and his team have been able to scale up their business without taking on new suppliers or large and unwieldy hardware.
“It means when you’ve got great ideas in digital that are driven by artificial intelligence, you don’t have to worry about raising capital to build another factory and hiring thousands of people,” concludes Mr Harrison. “Using Microsoft Azure we can reduce the overheads, scale the business and be much more agile.”
For Mr Harrison, that means less worry about the future of the business and more time to look for new shoes.