Escape from GDPR: Publishers confess what they won’t miss while on summer vacation

This article is part of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor to get an unvarnished look at the people, processes and problems inside the industry. More from the series →

Publishing executives have had a rough year. From preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation to the usual pressures of trying to maintain revenues in a digital ad landscape still dominated by the Facebook-Google duopoly, publishers have their share of pressures to escape with a much-needed vacation.

For U.K. publishers, buoyed by the happy news that England has made it to the World Cup semi-finals, the holiday season is a welcome respite. For the latest in our Confessions series, in which we trade candor for anonymity, we asked multiple publishing executives what it is they’re currently grappling with, that they can’t wait to shed in exchange for a few weeks of peace and quiet under a palm tree.

Excerpts lightly edited.

On publisher-agency relationships
This year, we have had to carefully navigate the agency versus brand-direct relationship. It’s been painful for everyone involved. We’ve spent too much time trying to avoid upsetting everyone and not enough time creating outstanding [branded content] work. Agencies have kept the client at arm’s reach and it’s turned into a game of [telephone tag]. Too much is getting lost in translation. All too often, after the partnership is signed off by the agency, we arrive at the kick-off meeting with the client, only to realize we are a way away from what was originally agreed. In order to realize the opportunity that brand partnerships represent agencies need to be more daring, they need to take risks. It’s just not happening enough, and it’s getting boring. I’m sure a few weeks in Bali will help me overcome these frustrations. — Digital publishing executive 

“Communication throughout the supply chain has been shit [since the arrival of GDPR]. DSPs aren’t being very forthcoming about whether they can detect [GDPR consent] opt-in users. It’s very frustrating as all we want to know on the sell side is that our opt-in signal is being received and our buyers can buy across. Three different DSPs have given us three different stories, so I’ll be glad to jump on a plane to Italy and forget about this horse-shit communication.” — Digital publishing executive

On industry peacocking 
“I look forward to kicking back and, most importantly, gaining some perspective by speaking to people who wouldn’t know a CPM if it came up and bit them on the arse. I will also turn off all social media to ensure I am not subjected to the witless comments by the phalanx of ‘self-publicists’ who have appeared over the last year. It is one thing to appear on every industry panel going; it is another to think your every utterance is worthy of a blog, vlog or social media post. But most importantly, I am looking forward to getting away from a diversity debate that is mostly held by people who are about as diverse as Ryedale [rural district in Northern England] and display an astonishing lack of what diversity is by never mentioning BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups] over-50s, LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] or disabled people in the debate.” — National publishing executive 

On resource pressures
“I still have to fight tooth and nail for any resource. We have a small team with no simple way to sign contracts and no easy way to implement new tech. Our back-office resources are spread very thin, covering every angle from site to editorial support from print contracts to trade deals. This is costing us in missed opportunities and errors that lose revenue. Publishers have to realize that in a programmatic world a good back office can generate as much revenue as much as the front office staff and need to be staffed accordingly. So I am looking forward to not chasing, begging and cajoling for every tiny step. I am looking forward to not having to cut so many corners on a project that it ends up going full circle.” — National publishing executive 

More GDPR revulsion
“I would happily go on holiday just to escape my GDPR professional emails, and when doing so will go to my personal inbox, select all GDPR-related emails and delete them at once while sipping a glass of white wine, eating oysters and watching the sun set on a beach which is known for having the highest sand dune in Europe.” — National publishing executive

On traditional publishers’ lack of agility 
“One thing that frustrates me about the industry is the speed that [legacy] publishers move at digitally versus [digital media] startups. Publishers have the brands and audience but mostly fail to capitalize on these despite the success stories in the industry. Startups usually have a single brand and common company goal, nothing gets in the way of trying to hit this. It’s a lesson that lots of publishers could learn from. I’m positive there are loads of products that could have been massive successes if politics didn’t get in the way. At least while I’m on holiday I won’t have a phone signal to see our startup competitors shouting about how fast they can move or another new launch.” — Magazine group publishing executive

Yet more GDPR aversion
“Without question what I’m looking forward to is a break from GDPR, or the ‘God damn pain in the rear.’ I’m just hoping that by the end of the holiday season certain tech and agency giants will have got their acts together to allow the market to function in a frictionless way, while respecting consumers’ privacy. I’ll also be packing lots of novels and banning newspapers to avoid ignominious sight of our government tearing itself apart and consigning the U.K. to a disastrous Brexit in the process.” — Magazine group publishing executive

On private marketplaces
“It’s very frustrating to have worked hard the whole second quarter convincing a client to advertise on our sites, then once it finally does, the PMP transacts just £500 ($665) and nobody has a straight answer why — not ad ops, traders, Google — nobody has any idea why the revenue is so low for a budget that was £30,000 ($40,000). After that, spending two weeks on the beach and not chasing four different teams for answers seems very appealing.” — Digital publishing executive

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