How marketers are preparing for GDPR

The DMA highlights marketers’ priorities, struggles and worries in ensuring GDPR compliance by May 2018.

The GDPR comes into force in just under a year and, although the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) says it had expected preparedness and awareness for this new law to have increased, that has not quite been the case.

The DMA has received specific guidance from the UK regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office and from the EU regulator, the Article 29 Working Party. These pieces of guidance have given marketers specific instructions, and many have found that there is more work to do than expected, according to the DMA. Consequently, marketers feel less prepared than before.


The latest DMA research has found that, overall, awareness of the GDPR has remained static at 96% of respondents, but those reporting ‘good’ rather than ‘basic’ knowledge has slipped from 66% in February 2017 to 59% in May. Those feeling ‘extremely’ or ‘somewhat’ prepared reduced from 71% to 61% of the total over the same period. The figures also highlight that more marketers said they would be ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ affected by the GDPR compared to February, rising from 44% to 54%, according to the third edition of the DMA’s ‘GDPR and you’ series of studies into the industry’s awareness and preparedness for the new laws.

In February 2017, 68% of marketers said their business was on course or ahead of plan to be ready for the GDPR. But in May this dropped to 55%, with a further 24% of companies yet to start a GDPR plan. The research also shows that DMA members are almost twice as likely to be ready for the GDPR, with 63% of members saying they’re on-course or ahead of plan to be ready by May 2018 compared to just 39% of non-members.

Chris Combemale, CEO of the DMA group, said: “May 2018 should be a date that is in every marketer’s diary, giving us around 16 months before the GDPR comes into force. It is concerning that only half of our industry feels their businesses are prepared for the new rules and not that many more believe they will be ready in time. The finish line for GDPR readiness is fixed and the risk to businesses of not being compliant is significant. Our advice is to continue preparations in earnest over the coming year. Not making it across the line in time is not an option.”

As the GDPR looms, marketers’ five main concerns are consent (68%), legacy data (48%), implementing a compliant system (38%), profiling (30%) and legitimate interest (23%). The impact of the GDPR is not as significant as the decision to Brexit, 9% of marketers say trade has decreased within the UK and 8% say trade has decreased with the EU since the vote.

The GDPR is a fact, and most marketers understand this. But B2B marketers, the group most at risk, are also the group the slowest to come around to what the GDPR means. But B2B marketers are slowly waking up to what the GDPR means for them, but a significant number remain oblivious. As a whole, marketers have discovered that guidance from the GDPR means they need to do more work, and they are preparing for the consequences. Finally, while the GDPR will mean significant change for marketers, Brexit has already bitten. Despite not even having occurred yet. Marketers say trade has decreased both in the UK and in Europe.

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