Agencies are launching GDPR consultancies for clients

The countdown to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation is on. And as a cottage industry of GDPR experts and consultants starts cropping up, agencies aren’t far behind.

Digital agency Isobar plans to launch a GDPR consultancy in the coming weeks. The Dentsu Aegis-owned digital agency, whose global clients include Coca-Cola, Adidas, Enterprise, Procter & Gamble, Philips and Huawei, will help clients continue using the data they have once the GDPR deadline comes up, said Jean Lin, global CEO of Isobar.

Lin said GDPR is a global issue that affects all companies selling in Europe. “Every agency should be doing this,” said Lin.

Isobar wouldn’t give specifics of how the consultancy service will work with clients or what it will charge.

GDPR’s byzantine and confusing rules have created plenty of issues, but also opportunity in the market. And it’s unclear who exactly is doing the consulting at these agencies, given there is no real qualification for being a GDPR expert.

Isobar isn’t alone in rolling out specific services around GDPR. Executives at two large digital advertising agencies, requesting anonymity, said their companies are in the early stages of developing services related to GDPR. The services are still being developed, so they didn’t have many details to share. One of these agencies had been focused on ensuring its media partners were in compliance with the regulation before turning to its brand clients.

Brian Wieser, senior analyst at Pivotal Research, said he expected that agencies would begin to introduce GDPR-specific consultancy services. “Agencies are well-positioned to advise their clients on data strategy at a higher level,” he said. “GDPR is a starting point of a conversation on this topic for many marketers that haven’t talked about this before because they are now being forced to have the conversation.”

Still, he said it isn’t surprising that services are beginning to surface now. “Most marketers have only recently come to terms that they have a problem they have to deal with in a few weeks,” he said.

Other ad agencies and media agencies are advising clients quietly without announcing specialized services. IPG, for instance, has trained 200 “GDPR Champions” at its agencies across the EU, who are meant to guide IPG agency clients on GDPR. Full-service marketing agency Marcus Thomas is advising global clients on how to comply with GDPR while staying out of supplying legal counsel and offering specialized services.

Scott Chapin, head of  analytics  and digital strategy at Marcus Thomas, said it makes sense that agencies with more global clients would start selling GDPR services, and if there was a U.S. version of GDPR, it would consider doing the same.

“I think the regulation is complicated enough that a lot of people are looking for answers, specifically within the European Union,” he said. “The entire industry is in a wait-and-see mode to understand how strict the EU will regulate this and what the first legal case will be.”

Marketers’ confusion will likely persist for several years, Chapin said. “We might lose the ability to target messages as narrowly as we can today, which can add to some waste around how media dollars are spent,” he said. “Even some of the changes that Google has made in the past week about their DoubleClick user IDs will impact marketing in North America just as much as in Europe.”

For more on how brands, agencies and other types of companies are preparing for GDPR, download Digiday’s guide.

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