GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation – will come into play in May 2018. Come hell or high water, Brexit or no Brexit, businesses will need evidence that their contacts have consented to their data being held on record, and how it will be used by the organisation. GDPR will cause a sea change in the way business do their outbound marketing.

For businesses, it’s relatively easy to do what’s necessary to meet the terms of GDPR. But being compliant and persuasive enough to get opt-ins under GDPR conditions is another matter.

Success comes down to great copywriting, using the right tone to guide readers through legal mumbo-jumbo, and having content that offers value in return for opting in.

Here’s how some big names are shifting their game ready for GDPR, and how well we think they’ve gone about it.

Doing it wrong

This isn’t compliant. None of these boxes explicitly indicate that the user has opted in to receiving messages, or to having these details archived. This is the old ‘implicit consent’ model of business that GDPR exists to prevent. Even if radio buttons were added – “I consent to these details being held on file”, “I consent to receiving marketing messages via email or phone” and the like – it would still be dull and uninspiring.

What we’re seeing here is standard, solid, functional, uninspired content marketing practice. There are two opt-ins here and both offer value in return. For handing over some professional contact data, the user gets a downloadable document; they can also opt in to be contacted regularly, provided the contact comes in the form of tips on business income generation.

There’s only one thing wrong with it. Why do they need to know job roles and company names to supply a free guide? They don’t, and they don’t explain what they’re going to do with that data. Result: this isn’t compliant.

Doing the diligence

This example is compliant – but only just. It tells the user what the information will be used for in very general terms and indicates that submitting details via this form gives consent to specific uses of data (but they’re outlined elsewhere).

GDPR is user-perspective legislation – it’s intended to help users understand and use their data rights – and this kind of small print approach serves the letter rather than the spirit of the law. It’s lazy, and it’s going to stand out as such when standard practice shifts after May 2018.

Doing it better

Now we’re getting somewhere. These are utilitarian but they work. They both recognise that each discrete use of data – even down to “marketing emails” as opposed to “transactional emails” or “service emails” – is different.

Users may want to receive the service emails, but not the marketing, and these companies have both recognised that and given their users some granular control.

What’s missing is the value. What does the user get for interacting with these options and agreeing to these messages?

Doing… better than us, actually

A good example of a GDPR compliant and user friendly preference centre

This is brilliant. The design is interesting – gamifying decisions with the sliders is a nice touch – and functional, with the options clearly separated and the clickable objects clear against the background. The tone is warm and witty, and there’s a sense of specific value added to the mail preferences (with the summaries-only option for the time-poor user who wants to know what’s going on but doesn’t want detail).

Allowing people to unsubscribe for a limited time is a masterstroke. Users often feel they have too many emails (we do), but it’s a fleeting feeling. Allowing people to declutter their inboxes without disengaging altogether means they don’t have to be won back around.

Wish we’d thought of that.


Good copy, novel designs, value-in-return and an amount of novelty are going to make the difference in the age of GDPR. For more best practice in this and other fields… why not subscribe to our newsletter below?

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Picture credit

(CC) The Blue Diamond Gallery

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Jon Garrad