People will forget about data privacy issues soon — at least, that's what ad experts expect

  • New data privacy regulations are about to be enacted in Europe.
  • Meanwhile U.S. consumers are concerned about data privacy issues due to cases like the Cambridge Analytica data leak.
  • However, advertising agencies, marketing firms and consultants believe people won't care in a few weeks because attention is fleeting and people like relevant ads.
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Europe is weeks away from enacting strict data privacy, and Americans' interest in what companies know about them from their online profiles is at an all-time high.

Still, agencies and marketing consultants — the people who advise how companies should spend their advertising budgets — feel consumers' concerns about data leaks are just a fleeting outrage that will subside.

"There's a huge difference between what people say and what people do," marketing consultant David Deal said on a call with reporters. "Americans complain about obtrusive ads until they see the next 'Star Wars' trailer."

On May 25, sites that operate in Europe will be subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These new rules give users more control over their online data on the content, including clearer rules on consent, being able to access what information platforms have on you and being able to opt-out and request your data be deleted.

The U.S. won't have these same rules, so it will be up to companies to decide whether they want to employ the same rules in Europe and other places in the world. Many are looking to see what Facebook does due to its recent data leaks. It, alongside Google, makes up the lions' share of digital advertising revenue. And Mark Zuckerberg has said the company would extend GDPR rules across its global platforms - for the most part.

Gartner analyst Andrew Frank said for most companies it's simply too expensive to have two sets of rules. However, Deal noted the size of the tech lobby in the U.S. will likely mean companies won't be forced to make any GDPR-like changes by the government. And the public will soon forget about a need for more control of their data, especially when they see advertising specifically tailored to their likes and needs.

"In the abstract, general form, people will not want to see their data used," Peter Bell, senior director of marketing for Europe, Middle East and Africa at marketing technology company Marketo, said on the call. "But in the specific in where they can see the value, they will be more comfortable with [marketers] having access to that information."

Bell likened the situation to how people have nostalgia for commercials.

"It's like when you ask a consumer if they like TV advertising, they say they don't like TV advertising," Bell said. "But then if you ask them what their favorite TV ad is, it's difficult to get a word in edgewise as they talk about it for the next 20 minutes about a TV ad from their childhood."

The problem with sustained interest in protecting data privacy is it's an "abstract concept," Frank said.

"[Data privacy] not like a war or something like that," he said. "It's something that people really don't understand. People sometimes feel uncomfortable or are offended by a [advertising] experience, but I don't think people have a very strong, consistent opinion about what privacy means to them as an abstract philosophical concept. And that's why I think it's fairly easy for this to flare up and die down again."

"It's going to be important to be on the look-out in the next couple of weeks, but we'll see that attention [on data privacy] wane and return to an unhealthy baseline," Michael Horn, managing director of data science at advertising agency Huge, said on the call.

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