GDPR and direct marketing: an opportunity for PR and comms?

The impact of GDPR on the direct marketing industry could present a huge opportunity for the PR and comms industry to meet clients' needs in a brave new world.


The marcomms industry is in a state of continuous evolution. While advertising suffers the effects of ad-blocking software and the reputational effects of programmatic advertising appearing alongside inappropriate content, the impact of GDPR on direct marketing could present opportunities for PR and communications to meet clients' needs.

Paul King, head of marketing technology at Ogilvy UK, which has a large direct marketing operation, told PRWeek: "Traditional list-brokers and owners who have relied on selling customer data are going to struggle to stay relevant and legal in the new world order; and are likely going to have to reinvent themselves and diversify, perhaps positioning previously peripheral services as their core offerings."

Risks and opportunities for the industry of the biggest shake-up of personal data in a generation

However, one should not be too swift to predict the death of direct marketing. King said that Royal Mail had already reported an uplift in "non-personalised" mailings which do not rely on customer data to reach their audience.

King (above) added: "It’s likely that with dwindling database sizes we’ll see a return to high value direct marketing packs as the volume of acquisition and prospect mailings drops and marketing budgets are re-focussed on retaining and upselling to existing customers."

Industry trade body, the PRCA takes the view that GDPR may well move organisations towards more compelling engagement through PR rather than the direct marketing methods they have used in the past.

Nicholas Dunn-McAfee (above), head of public affairs at the PRCA, said: "PR and communications - an industry built on trust and reputation - stands well placed to take advantage of the gap in the market that GDPR presents. Specifically, as direct marketing takes a hit clients will look to PR and communications practitioners to lead and shape external affairs focused on targeted content that is legitimately interesting for the end-user, media relations that reaches the ideal audience, and compelling communications strategies."

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