W2O is investing in its privacy services as data regulation pops up in the U.S. and Europe. 

The agency has appointed Dan Linton as global data privacy lead, a newly created role at W2O, to lead its growing group of privacy experts. 

Linton said the privacy team has three dedicated employees with plans to expand. The firm expects to hire one staffer in Europe to serve as an on-the-ground contact for GDPR support, Linton said. 

GDPR, or the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, was the biggest splash in data privacy in the past few years. However, Linton said the U.S. market is about to become at least as complex, and clients need guidance and training. 

Privacy scandals, like Cambridge Analytica, have spurred a focus on privacy in the U.S. While Congress has not passed a federal privacy law, states have enacted their own legislation. California’s privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act, is set to go into effect next year, and other states such as Nevada, Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington have similar measures. 

“Our U.S. clients are usually focused in two camps: thinking about embracing privacy as a brand and [needing] fundamental help understanding what they need to change, update and move to be compliant,” Linton said. “The U.S. landscape is on the verge of getting very complex. Forward-thinking clients want to know the best approach to deal with all these pieces of legislation; they can’t have one website for California and another for Nevada and another for Massachusetts. We help them navigate the core foundation that will address all the state legislation.” 

Linton has worked at W2O since 2017 as MD of analytics. Previously, he was global digital analytics manager at Intel. His background is in marketing analytics, with previous roles at agencies Cardinal Path and Critical Mass.

In the new position, Linton is acting as a liaison between a client’s marketing and legal departments, working with legal to make sure a brand is compliant with privacy laws and advising marketing teams as they develop digital campaigns and place ads. 

Beyond legal requirements, brands are also looking at privacy as a brand value. Linton said research has found brands that make privacy a priority have higher engagement. He also noted that disruption from new privacy laws may be good for the industry, which has relied on programmatic ads. 

“The oncoming onslaught of privacy legislation is definitely going to cause the ad-tech ecosystem some disruption, probably for the better,” Linton said. “The ad-tech ecosystem has been focused for far too long on collecting incredibly intimate details about people’s digital lives. As privacy legislation comes in to balance the equation, we’ll see some initial reactions, much like when GDPR went into effect, for example, The New York Times turned off ads in Europe. We’ll see that kind of clenching at first, but then innovation will come.”