Arrow up SEE MORE Latest


A million ways to say goodbye. Not one to say why.

By Tom Powell
How to communicate GDPR. Photo by Gemma Evans Unsplash

Proximity London head of copy Tom Powell says honesty is the best policy when it comes to GDPR copy.


Let’s get this out of the way. Another article about GDPR. But before you make an urgent appointment with your sock drawer, just hold your horses. Because you might even learn something*.


Right now we’re all inundated with messages from brands we may (or may not) have signed up to. These range from the pleading, ‘Let’s not say goodbye’, to the promise of greater glories, ‘We really don’t want you to miss out’, to the more tangential, ‘Is it something we said?’.


Those with a love for behavioural economics must be having a field day. Social proofing? Tick. Reciprocity? Double tick. Loss aversion? If there was an orgy for ticks, this would be it.


As for the precise messaging, the English language for ‘We won’t be able to contact you again’ has been taken to a dark room, pinned down and repeatedly water-boarded. And spare a thought for the beleaguered copywriter – there are only so many tricks up their sleeve.


No-one works in a vacuum, so guess what? The end result has been an onslaught of messages that pretty much all say the same thing. Again and again and again. And then once more because you probably deleted the first fourteen emails.


Irrespective of how the message is delivered – some are resolutely straightforward, some have grappled with being witty and a few have even raised the glimmer of a smile – there’s one thing they all seemed to have missed.


The why.


While we’re all fully aware of the GDPR juggernaut, how about the customers, consumers, patrons, fans and followers? Those people who live in the real world. Who might, just might, not have the slightest clue what we’re banging on about.


After all the jiggery-pokery about messaging hierarchies, value exchanges and behavioural biases, there’s one brutal truth about why we’re all doing this.


It’s the Government**.


Well who knew? Probably not the vast swathes of people being asked to update their marketing details. And that’s really the point. We’ve spent so long focusing on the end point, we’ve not educated anyone about why we’re doing it in the first place.


We’ve happily barrelled along and not actually explained the reason for all the GDPR shenanigans. Clearly, it’s not a finger-pointing, blame the faceless mandarins of Whitehall, excuse-fest. It’s about understanding.


Once the why is explained, it makes everything else fall into place.


While we all like to think we’ll give it to the man when the Government asks something of us, we don’t really. We still have MOTs, pay our council tax, renew our passports. Because when it’s official, we fall in line (as we’re British, happily stand in line too).


You need my permission because of new Government legislation? Well then, where do I sign? This isn’t demeaning all the valid marketing reasons regarding value exchanges, loss-aversion etc. Quite the opposite. It’s adding the substance behind it.


So the next time a brand asks you about your marketing preferences, see how much time and effort they’ve devoted to what it means. Then see if they’ve even explained why.

* Sorry, you probably didn’t. You can always listen to Radio 4. ** Before the pedants start sharpening their pencils, yes it’s EU legislation. Legislation that our Government signed up to. So there.