Email Marketing Is Ahead Of The Curve On EU Rules Bringing Panic To Adland

There has been no sector of digital marketing more greatly impacted by the latest EU rulings on advertising than email. So it's interesting to see the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) change its tone in how it deals with EU policymakers. In the past, there have been pleas from the wider industry to allow it more self-regulation, with executives pointing out to Brussels how proposed changes would impact the industry. Now, the tone has changed and it's all about the economy, not all about the numbers -- and they're very big.

The WFA report, compiled by Deloitte, claims that advertising as a whole contributes 643 billion Euros to member states' GDPs and creates 5.8m jobs directly and indirectly, through the growth it helps to deliver the wider economy. That equates to around 2.6% of employment within the EU and 4.6% of EU-wide GDP. Speaking of growth potential, the industry is claimed to be able to turn one euro's worth of input into seven euros worth of economic gain.

This new report and the impetus of taking the argument to the EU policymakers is arguably attributable to the new ePrivacy directive that is early on in the making but appears to want to give consumers more protection from email snooping and greater control over accepting cookies. With email providers considered telecoms businesses, they will no longer be able to scan emails to build up user profiles for more targeted advertising. On cookies, rather than being a tick box exercise that just gets in the way, the new potential law is looking at more informed decisions over what cookies a consumer will accept, and these preferences will be stored at browser level, rather than needing to be reaffirmed with every new visit to a site.

Better-informed decisions sounds very much like GDPR, doesn't it? And here's a question for you -- how many people do you think will accept third-party cookies that offer none of the convenience of remembering passwords provided by a first-party cookie from the site owner? If the proposed ePrivacy law goes through, you can imagine what it will do for display, unless a fudge for collating all cookies together is made so people elect to remember passwords, and in so doing, allow advertisers to track them too. It would be a move out of keeping with the European Commission's intentions, but it's my guess that it's the way the industry will attempt to word a workaround.

So, what email marketers have had to take on the chin, and are still bracing themselves ahead of GDPR's massive fines coming into effect from spring 2018 onwards, the wider digital marketing community is now having to consider could be in the post for them too. Better informed consumers freely giving their explicit permission to be tracked and targeted is most definitely the way the European Commission is set to go and email marketing will go down as the first niche where the approach was applied.

On the good side, we have to remember that this not only puts the niche ahead on the learning curve of dealing with the direction Brussels is taking, it comes as some solace that stricter opt-in rules do have a plus side. For email marketers, although they will be an expensive pain to implement, they will also allow lists to be cleaned up and bounce rates reduced.

All of this, of course, should hopefully improve a brand's online reputation, which can only be a good thing for its deliverability rates. So, email marketers can look on as the wider industry changes tact to having an economic argument with Brussels, and consider themselves ahead of the curve on the game-changers that are coming the way of digital marketing.

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