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Targeting Audiences in the Age of GDPR

Written by: Maggie Hauck | May 22, 2019

Digital GDPR-1

On any given day, there are 463 Exabytes* of data generated online.  What’s an exabyte?  A billion billion … or 463 with 18 zeroes!   This daily tsunami of data has a tremendous number of users, uses and usage. These are all dependent on how we can properly organize the data, so we don’t drown in it.                                                                                                               * 

Why Measure Digital Platforms?

Any discussion of digital measurement starts with the existential question:  Is measurement of digital platforms necessary?  Digital platforms use impressions as ad sales currency.  Unlike linear platforms, digital impressions are simply ad inventory.  Therefore, basic digital currency is not the result of measurement but reflects an ad served by one computer to another computer (or mobile device, connected hardware, etc.). 

Then why do we measure digital?  There are many more uses for measurement beyond creating a currency metric, so many uses that analyzing these “exabytes” of data can be overwhelming.  Among the many insights digital measurement can provide are:

  • Overall scale of an offering, with comparatives
  • Profile of the online consumer
  • Effectiveness of advertising on an offering to create various KPIs
  • Verification to ensure purchased impressions have been served and/or observed
  • The degree of influence an ad has on various points of the consumer purchase funnel

While all of these are valued aspects of digital measurement, what is arguably the most important is Consumer Targeting.  It is also the most complex, causing the most confusion.

Targeting using Digital Data

On the surface it appears to be simple to track online behavior to target the right customer.  However, not only is there a matrix of complexity, there are new and significant challenges that have risen up in the past year.  These stem from new privacy regulations combined with growing user privacy sensitivity, making digital measurement even more complex.   

Digital Data Targeting falls into 3 basic categories and the type chosen for use depends on the specific need:

Katz Data Types

The common thread between all three of these data types is the challenge of the new privacy regulations.  Last year the European Union passed a new law called the “General Data Protection Regulation”.  The GDPR regulates online privacy for EU citizens, giving users control over their own personal data. Bottom line: all companies that use personal digital information must clearly disclose data collection and its purpose, as well as give users control over this process.     

These new EU regulations quickly rippled out to the rest of the digital world. Silicon Valley put a version of the GDPR into law in California.  The most obvious manifestations are the new notices on the bottom of most websites asking users to opt in for cookie tracking.  These can be intrusive and surprising to some users, causing them to opt out. 

While the IAB is establishing guidelines, there are no nationwide requirements in effect.  Many sites allow users to continue even if they do not accept the cookie tracking. Other sites have provided no user notifications at all.  At some point, complete standards will need to be adapted here in the U.S. as consumers become more guarded of their privacy, meaning less data available to advertisers. 

The industry has become accustomed to gorging on a large and varied menu of data collected from online users and are dependent on this data for monetization.  These new regulations have the capability to place us on a restricted diet until we find new ways to collect user data that is less intrusive on privacy but equally as useful to our marketing needs.    


Maggie Hauck is Vice President of Digital Strategy at Katz Media Group, focused specifically on the Katz Digital team. Maggie has been a long-time Katz employee, rising through the ranks of the Radio research team. Maggie offers incomparable expertise about the digital measurement space.