EU Opts In To End The Party For B2B

GDPR was always heralded as a wake-up call -- in particular for b2b marketers, who had a reputation for enjoying loose oversight compared to their b2c compatriots. No more business cards in goldfish bowls at conferences to boost lists and greater transparency on privacy.

There was arguably enough wiggle room in GDPR for at least job title-based emails to be free from oversight. The or marketing@xcorp address was arguably immune from GDPR, regardless of the new law. However, when I talk to b2b marketers, it seems most have found it pretty easy to rely on "legitimate interests" as a legal basis for processing personally identifiable data.

Effectively, businesspeople know their business email will attract pitches from strangers and that people who have their details will routinely get in contact to pass on work or drum up business.

So it wasn't that much of a wake-up call. That's actually arriving next year in the form of the ePrivacy Directive.

I was talking about the latest wording of this with the DMA the other day, and I would sum up the feeling there that those who were concerned most about privacy in Europe may have felt GDPR was a little too lenient and that they were doing their best to tighten up rules through the ePrivacy Directive.

With all the noise around GDPR, this upcoming directive has been trotting along in the background. Most commentators have pointed out that the biggest impact will be consumers being given the right to block cookies at the third-party level, rather than for individual sites. 

This is true, but actually, I would argue that the major impact -- as the law currently stands -- is that b2b marketing will never be the same.

The "carve out," as it is often referred to -- which frees b2b marketing from needing opt-in to communicate with clients and prospects -- is due to go.

At the moment, b2b enjoys a pretty easy life when it comes to electronic messaging, under PECR. This is due to end.

Just so we're clear on the laws here, GDPR was all about storing and processing personally identifiable data, while the ePrivacy Directive -- which will replace PECR -- deals with using those databases to communicate electronically on channels such as email, text, messaging and telephone calls. 

The fear at the DMA, at the moment, is that the ePrivacy Directive is shaping up to possibly insist all telesales calls are based on opt-in. While the person in the street will probably agree this is a good idea, many marketers will feel it is too restrictive. 

Pretty big stuff, isn't it? But this law that's been chugging along in the background, having amendments added here and there, without people necessarily realising it is going to make opt-in the de facto standard for both b2c (as is already the case) and b2b (which most definitely is not already the case).

Receptionists receiving endless calls to discuss the toner and insurance, as well as the entire office being inundated with speculative emails, may well breathe a sign of relief.

However, for b2b marketing the "carve out" party is over.

According to the DMA, the new Regulation is likely to become law by the middle of next year with a six-month implementation period.

The year 2020 will mark the biggest change in b2b marketing in living memory -- possibly ever?

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