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Auto Trader has leveraged learnings from being both a brand and media owner to hone its sell-side programmatic offering over the past few years. The car marketplace was the recently named as the first company to receive the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) Gold Standard certification for its adtech stack, but now it is meticulously planning for its next challenge: GDPR.

For a business where data the lifeblood, it’s explicitly clear that the brand is not one of the 60% of firms unprepared for the legislation which covers everything from consent to legitimate interest and the use of third-party data and carries with it multi-million fines for non-compliance. 

The brand’s director of advertising platforms and data solutions, Lara Izlan, explained to The Drum that Auto Trader's readiness programme is “pretty comprehensive”, with the firm having built its own framework based on the guidelines set out by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Izlan noted that while Auto Trader is clearly geared towards compliance by the 25 May deadline, she believes advertisers and media platforms are going to have to get more creative about how to incentivise consumers to share their data.

“As an industry we’re going to have to do a better job than we do now in clearly defining the value exchange that we have with consumers that use our products and services, in some cases it’s clearer than in others, but it needs better definition,” she said. 

Under the hood of GDPR

Auto Trader has a GDPR steering group, 16 people from across the business led by a data protection officer, with other team members including dedicated programme management and workstream leads.

The brand is also working with external and auditing partners to ensure its got relevant processes in place. It’s understood to have subscribed to IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework; which has had a mixed response from the industry since it launched in March. Some publishers believe that under the guidance they have to assume the majority of the legal risk – especially when it comes to how vendors use data.

On the display advertising side, Izlan noted that Auto Trader has one workstream lead and a cross-functional group looking at compliance from a tech, partnerships, operations, and sales perspective.

Around 84% of Auto Trader’s revenues, or £262m, per-year, come from trade ads – retailers and home traders who use the marketplace to sell their products. Display advertising counts for 6%, drawing in £17.5m in 2017. However, as the group continues to build out its data management platform (DMP) this is the area that has driven the highest boost in growth, with a revenue increase of 16% against trade ads’ 9% in the past 12 months.

The company is also readying for the forthcoming ePrivacy directive, or EU cookie directive, which will give consumers more choice over how they’re tracked online. European lawyers have said it’s unlikely this will come until force until at least mid-2019 but Izlan and her team are already working on a strategy.

“While we wait for that guidance we’re not twiddling our thumbs. We’re working alongside all our tech partners and programmatic platforms and making sure that in every one of these cases we are putting best practice in place now, so when it comes to the time we’re ready.

“For a long time the industry has been waiting to see what is going to happen, but our approach is that you have to take bite-sized chunks out of the challenge and ensure you have best practice along the way.”

DMP learnings

Izlan’s insight into how Auto Trader is readying for new data laws comes as the company enters its fourth year of managing its own DMP, which she said it now used on a daily basis to power campaigns.

An unlikely benefit of doing so has been that it has also allowed Auto Trader to glean new insights from its audiences, which have helped inform decisions the brand has made on the buy-side.

“In itself it’s not an insights tool,” she noted, “ but the way that we use it allows us to discover new pockets of inventory, and new audiences that we can put marketing and advertising messages in front of.”

She added: “We’re constantly looking at the ROI on it and it’s been additive to the business. We’ve got more plans ahead for it, we want to move more into the machine learning space and get more sophisticated in how we use the platform.”

The brand was recently the first to get Gold Standard approval from the IAB for its adtech operation.

The seal confirms that Auto Trader's practices conform to three criteria: reducing ad fraud by implementing ads.txt initiative, obtaining Jicwebs certification for brand safety, and adherence to the IAB’s Lean principles and the Coalition for Better Advertising Standards.