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What the ICO's new direct marketing code means for you

Just as our GDPR hangovers are wearing off, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have released a draft direct marketing code (this is under consultation until 4th March 2020 and is open to response if you’d like to comment).  

This new code is focused exclusively on direct marketing, defined by John Mitchison, DMA Director of Policy and Compliance, as “anything that is directed to an individual whether based on their phone number, location or IP address, both online and offline”.

Despite its link to the GDPR, the direct marketing code aims to combine the ICO’s previous GDPR guidelines, the Privacy and Electronics Regulation (PECR) guidelines and cookies in a way that allows management of all media channels from one place. The ICO are taking a “life-cycle approach”, looking at direct marketing campaigns from the planning and data collection stages, all the way through to inception (i.e. when you press send). In short, the ICO is trying to make life easier for marketers, whilst protecting individuals’ data.

Much like other areas of the GDPR, it can be difficult to decipher what this actually means for your business. So, we’ve put together a quick guide to help you out.

Planning your campaigns

The new code explains that, during the planning stages, “a key part of the GDPR is accountability and you must be able to demonstrate your compliance”. In this instance, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to change much within your business (providing that you already follow the GDPR’s guidelines) – great news!

Different campaign types

According to the code, direct messages include “live and automated calls, electronic mail (e.g. text and emails) and faxes”. It’s worth noting that only messaging related to the “commercial marketing of products and services” is covered - it doesn’t apply to “the promotion of aims and ideals”. This is especially relevant when considering social media posts. For instance, sharing pics of your office dog would fall under promoting your company’s aims and ideals, rather than constituting commercial marketing.

One of the main changes to be aware of specifically involves direct emails, as the “PECR may still apply even if you ask someone else to send your electronic direct marketing messages”. The new code claims that, in such cases, an advertiser is sending the email so they need consent too. If you’re sending hosted email campaigns, you’ll need to make sure they aren’t breaching the PECR. You can find out more about these regulations here.

Social media

Under the new code, as well as the content you post, other elements of social media will be under increased scrutiny. So-called lookalike audiences (used on LinkedIn and Facebook) and tailored audiences (used on Twitter) now require the consent of the individuals being targeted. Gone are the days when you could get away with just mentioning this in your privacy policy.

As you can see, overall, not much is going to change after all! More information on the draft direct marketing code can be found here. If you need help conforming with the new code, get in touch with our digital marketing experts.

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