Creative GDPR

We’re on the verge of a creative resurgence, and GDPR has led us there

By John Treacy, Executive creative director

May 22, 2018 | 4 min read

Let’s face it, as an industry we love a bit of a moan, to the point that sometimes we are the prophets of our own doom.


Whether it’s ‘digital’, ‘big data’ or ‘AI’ being mulled over in bars from Soho to Shoreditch, over in the last 10 years we’ve all grumbled into our artisan gin and Fever-Tree tonics about how the industry is never going to be the same again. (Let’s not even get started on the fourth horseman of the marketing apocalypse - the management consultancies.)

While all these have undoubtedly had an impact, there is another bigger looming disaster on the horizon, an asteroid that is hurtling towards planet advertising and it’s going to end all life as we know it.


Even The Sun has got in on the act, with a splash on how ‘builders, cleaners and gardeners could face huge fines just for sending an email to drum up business thanks to Draconian EU laws on data protection’. Brands are being threatened with up to €20m fines or 4% of global annual turnover for breaching these new regulations. And for customer experience agencies the predictions of doom have reached fever pitch.

Or have they?

Because there’s something else that’s been brewing that you won’t have heard being discussed over a G&T – the nagging voice at the back of a lot of agency folk’s heads, which has been whispering: “We’ve just been doing this wrong.”

Did we really get into this industry to surrender control of our message to an algorithm, so that it can mindlessly stalk consumers around the internet?

But what is going to work in this new world – one where, thanks to GDPR, we’ll have fewer opportunities to talk to consumers, who in turn have the power to actively opt out of ever hearing from us?

If only there was a rag-tag bunch of misfits that could ride in and save planet advertising from destruction...

Well hello, creative department!

That’s right, it turns out that the answer to our prayers isn’t AR or VR – it’s the reason we all got into this business in the first place: big, beautiful ideas that people want to engage with, share with their mates and get real value from.

Because GDPR will definitely destroy one thing, and that’s junk. That’s why in creative departments across the land there’s been an air of quiet confidence while a lot of the industry has been turning itself inside out.

There’s a feeling in the air – the feeling that we're on the verge of a creative resurgence. In recent years there have been a few false dawns, but this time it’s more than just the new regulations driving it.

Technology is driving it, enabling us to deliver engagement through mobile in ways we never have before.

The social platforms are driving it, finally opening up to become the digital marketing playgrounds we’d all hoped they might be 10 years ago.

But most of all consumers are now in the driving seat.

By giving them a data bill of rights (which is what GDPR effectively does), it’s ensured that they will set the standard for the type and quality of communications they’ll engage with. They will become the ultimate creative directors.

So, strap in and prepare for take-off, because as the song said, you don’t want to miss a thing.

John Treacy is executive creative director at Proximity London.

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