Data privacy has been gaining traction in the marketing sector recently, as companies become aware of the potential of collecting, storing and using customer data to optimize their marketing funnel strategies. In the digital age, we have access to more data and touchpoints than ever before and as Uncle Ben once said to Peter Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility!”

For those who work in digital marketing and do not live under a rock, the following abbreviations and words will be familiar: GDPR, ATT, adios 3rd party cookies and “Hey, why is my traffic being attributed to (not set)/unassigned??!” All of this is affecting the world of online marketing and measurement, which has skyrocketed since it allowed us to answer the age-old question, “does advertising really work?” – the answer is yes.

To make things even more confusing, two new abbreviations have been introduced that will be relevant to anyone working in the industry in the Middle East: UAE’s PDP (Personal Data Protection Law) and KSA’s PDPL (Personal Data Protection Law) - both adaptions of laws from GDPR.

In short, the outcome here is that over the next few months, consent and storing PII (personally identifiable information) is going to become the responsibility of the organisation that manages it. These data privacy laws are designed to protect consumer privacy by requiring companies to obtain consent and take precautionary actions to prevent any sort of data breaches. Failure to comply with the above could lead to legal penalties and reputational damage. This does not mean that we should discourage our data teams, but instead empower them to prioritize and educate the organisation on how we can transition to being transparent and accountable.

So, how does this affect marketing efforts? Take, for example, running an email campaign: you need to ensure you have obtained consent from your prospects and customers, and have the right data for segmentation. The same applies for online ads and remarketing campaigns – you need to be aware of how you are targeting your audience and what data you are collecting from them. In the short term, this may seem to have a negative effect on CPAs or CPLs, however, in the longer term it will benefit marketers in creating more meaningful campaigns.

Data should be seen as a currency to be earned through trust and brand-building, instead of freely given and open to misuse by the wrong party.

The solution to all data privacy concerns is shifting to a consent-driven, first-party approach. To achieve this, there are a few steps that need to be taken:

  1. Creating a data-focused culture that encourages the use of data to inform decisions and measure success.
  2. Investing in the right talent and technology, so that the right people have the right tools to capture, store and analyse data with consent from customers.
  3. Leveraging automation wherever possible, especially for those mundane tasks that have the same effect as melatonin.
  4. Developing data-driven campaigns that use first-party data to create more targeted and effective campaigns that reach the right customers with the right creatives.
  5. Monitoring and analyzing results in order to create a feedback loop that promotes a test and learn approach.

The emergence of privacy legislation in our region, coupled with the upcoming end of support of third-party cookies, leads to a significant and long-term change in the digital marketing ecosystem. Despite concerns around the potential consequences on advertising efficiency and on market dynamics, we should all welcome any change promoting user privacy as a collective, meaningful progress. Leveraging identity data in the right way is a key business advantage, but it is a challenge to accomplish for many organisations. Done right, identity will drive efficiencies and effectiveness across marketing and media programs. Our data and identity solutions will help you understand customers and deliver value to them across their various experiences and transactions with your brand.

Authored by Fawzan Riaz, Data & Strategy Manager | Merkle MENA