Technology Data & Privacy The Responsible Marketing Hub With Google

When marketing meets legal – joining the dots for responsible marketing excellence


By Jenni Baker | Senior Editor

December 14, 2022 | 7 min read

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Legal is often seen as the final checkpoint in the marketing strategy – but there’s a competitive business advantage to bring them in much earlier on. We caught up with Tom O'Flynn, who leads Google’s Ads Legal team in EMEA, to discuss how marketing and legal teams can work hand-in-hand to achieve compliance and performance excellence.

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Marketers, who is responsible for advising your business on privacy and compliance?

Marketers, who is responsible for advising your business on privacy and compliance? When was the last time you brought them into discussions about a new project or campaign from the outset? Or did you just bring them in at the last moment to ‘tick the box’ as part of a wider compliance process?

There’s long been debate around the tensions that can exist across teams – between product and engineering, sales and marketing. Each team has their own goals and motivations, often working in silos, and, in many cases, legal is often seen as the final hurdle to overcome before going to market.

Getting on the front foot

In a privacy-first world, with ongoing compliance and regulation to contend with, marketers must think beyond compliance to work hand-in-hand with their legal representatives to deliver responsible marketing excellence as a key competitive differentiator for their marketing strategy.

“The earlier we are engaged by the marketing team, the better the overall outcomes – because legal are able to spot problems and act proactively rather than being on the back foot,” explains Tom O'Flynn, a director in the Ads Legal Team at Google. “Bad ideas can be discounted early without wasting teams’ time, easy wins can be spotted, and more complex or novel proposals can be properly engaged with, rather than blocked by legal because there is no time to properly assess them.”

O'Flynn impresses the importance of bringing compliance and legal teams into the fold early to avoid hurdles at the end of a project – and that’s vital across all teams, from product and engineering through to sales and marketing. A cross-functional working approach is so important not just for the benefit of your customers but for the benefit of your business too.

“Legal advice doesn’t exist in a vacuum and when we’re looking at building a relationship of trust with customers, we should be providing input alongside other stakeholders,” he says. “Ultimately, a lawyer who doesn’t understand a brand’s marketing objectives, broader business goals and company culture – particularly how it views its relationship with customers – can’t provide the best advice.”

Secure by default, private by design, and putting people in control

After all, trust is vital in the relationship between brands and their consumers – and they should ensure they keep customers’ data secure and handle it in a privacy-first, responsible way. People are more likely to voluntarily share their data when they know how it will benefit them – but they have to know that they have a choice and feel in control of their data.

Through Google’s own testing and research with Ipsos, it found that a three M approach works best for brands to deliver a great privacy experience: make it meaningful (make clear what’s in it for them), memorable (ensure they give conscious permission) and manageable (that they can manage their data and privacy).

Whilst lawyers should be experts in the law, brands are the experts at communicating with consumers. When talking about privacy, that doesn’t just start and end with consent prompts – it should continue through everything. And, when you blend those skills and insights alongside legal advice to inform the conversations you’re having with people about their data, it leads to better outcomes for everyone.

Setting your business up for success

It’s vital for brands to get the fundamentals of privacy compliance and security right and take the steps now to better prepare for future regulation changes rather than waiting to see what happens.

For the future of the web to thrive, digital advertising needs to be safer for people; successful for publishers; and stronger for businesses, says O’Flynn. Here are three core tips to consider:

1. Get ahead: engage legal and privacy compliance stakeholders early in the process before bringing any product, service, project or campaign to market – and keep them involved throughout to avoid any unexpected hurdles or blockers.

2. Start broad: privacy is not just a compliance issue, it can also be a performance benefit. Recognize the changes that are coming to the digital advertising industry and embrace privacy preserving technology like Enhanced Conversions and Consent Mode. Be willing and ready to test new methods of targeting and measurement through initiatives such as The Privacy Sandbox.

3. Identify core principles: when privacy regulation is so dynamic, compliance can feel like a moving target. Identify core principles to guide your approach; principles which are grounded in the law but tailored to reflect your brand’s values, ethics and outlook.

Privacy shouldn’t be seen solely as a compliance exercise. As an industry, advertisers have an opportunity to shift their perception and think about the long-term benefits of building relationships and trust with their customers. After all, Google’s recent research with Ipsos demonstrates that almost three quarters of people would prefer to buy from brands that are honest about what data they collect and why – and 43% of people say they’d switch from their preferred brand to a second-choice brand if the latter provided a good privacy experience.

A forward-thinking, cross-functional team approach to privacy across the business will be key. “There is no doubt that investing in privacy pays off,” concludes O’Flynn. “By viewing legal and privacy advisors as valuable partners who can help build and maintain trusted relationships with consumers, advertisers have an opportunity to differentiate, drive performance and create a competitive advantage.”

For more insights and advice on responsible marketing in a privacy-first world, visit The Responsible Marketing Hub with Google.

Technology Data & Privacy The Responsible Marketing Hub With Google

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Google is committed to helping businesses thrive in a privacy-first world. The technology giant works with thousands of businesses and agencies to help them prepare for a future without third party cookies. Using privacy-preserving technologies, built on machine learning and automation, it can fill reporting gaps and understand people’s needs in a privacy-centric way.

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