Today, Wednesday 4th January 2023, in a landmark case the Cookie Monster took aim at Social Media monolith Meta, who became the first major victim of EU G.D.P.R. (General Data Protection Regulation) legislation. 

Meta (who famously own and operate Facebook and WhatsApp) have been fined $414 million in an EU GDPR ruling for serving personalised ads to users without their explicit consent. 

Until now, legal permission by users for personalised ads was presumed by Meta to be accepted by anyone who had ticked a box accepting a lengthy tome of Terms of Service (ToS).

If the ToS weren’t accepted, you couldn’t use their platforms. 

All that ceased on Wednesday 4th January 2023 when Ireland’s data privacy board decided that burying the requirement to accept personalised ads within ToS and then denying access to the platform without accepting the ToS amounts to forcing users to accept personalised ads, which is a violation of GDPR.

The huge fine and a need for Meta to change their approach is the outcome.

This ruling comes hot on the heels of what we flagged in our blog a few weeks ago i.e. the tracking cookie apocalypse.

This is the brave new cookieless world, where marketers who had relied on “spray and pray” leveraging third-party data or even ‘targeted’ marketing (i.e. targeted ads based on previous searches and user history), will need to adapt to survive.

Facebook in particular will be affected, as they will now likely have to ask users to tick a box confirming that they DO or DO NOT wish to be served personalised adverts. 

As our MD John Conway explains in his LinkedIn update, since we can assume a large section of the public will opt-out of personalised adverts (i.e. tracking), the likely challenges for marketers will be threefold:

  1. A decline in opted-in audience sizes for targeting in ad networks and social
  2. A subsequent increase in the number of adverts hitting opted-in audiences, reducing return-on-investment (ROI) through an increase in cost-to-reach and hastening audience burn-out as the pool of new consumers to recruit from has diminished
  3. Limited or reduced availability of consumer data profiles creating a vicious circle as ad relevance falls, driving further opt-out behaviour from consumers

Whilst we can’t do much to help Meta, we can provide some sound advice to marketers concerned that their Facebook and Ad Network channels will start drying up.

Firstly, the good news for marketers is that whilst the pendulum is swinging away from third party data, it is swinging towards first and zero party data. 

Brands that collect and make use of their own data will have an advantage over brands that rely on the old ‘spray and pray’ methods. 

Email marketers and CRM marketers can leverage their opted-in customer datasets to drive incremental sales using the power of Machine Learning (ML) tools like PREDICT (identifying look-alike audiences in their datasets) and UPLIFT (using ML to spot super responders to marketing campaigns allowing marketers to send smaller, more frequent, more relevant campaigns that deliver better results). 

Overall, the results are better ROI using existing datasets, whilst maintaining compliance with GDPR legislation. A win-win by all accounts.

Secondly, your customers will thank you for making the emails and content they receive more relevant and more useful for their needs. 

Consumers are sick of being pushed products or services that aren’t actually relevant to them, but have been targeted based on an approximation of their search and social history. 

It’s time for brands to step up and be better. The era of mass marketing is giving way to the era of truly personalised marketing, and what better way to do that than with the power of Machine Learning?

To find out more about how iota-ML can help you drive success in this brave new world, reach out to John Conway via