CANNES – As more marketers seek to use data to achieve the kind of accountability that direct-response media has typically provided, agencies are improving the way they handle sensitive consumer information. In the past month alone, Dentsu Aegis Network rolled out a PII-based data platform and appointed a global data compliance officer in advance of new EU regulations.

“I think privacy is of the utmost importance for clients. It always has been,” says Doug Ray, Dentsu Aegis Network’s President of Product & Innovation.

At the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, where Ray was a panelist at the Mastercard Automated Advertising Panel, he explains to Beet.TV how the way media is planned and purchased has become much more dynamic and why his company has “doubled down” on leveraging data.

This includes both PII information—names, physical addresses and email addresses—and cookie data within client data management platforms.

“That’s at the end of the day why clients are directly managing their DMP’s and leaning in to CRM, because they’re looking to try to understand and know their customers better,” says Ray.

Particularly in Europe, regulators go to great lengths to restrict what marketers can do with consumer data. This will only increase as companies become more sophisticated about mining that information.

Last week, Dentsu Aegis Network recruited the Chief Privacy Officer from British Telecom Group, Mark Keddie, to become its first Global Data Protection Officer. It came a year before such a position will be mandated by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

The move is “very important and something we’re certainly taking quite seriously particularly as we pivot into utilizing PII more and more for our advertising campaigns,” says Ray.

The pivot includes its acquisition last August of a majority stake in data marketing firm Merkle. Baltimore-based Merkle specializes in so-called “customer relationship marketing,” which includes crafting loyalty programs for marketers and managing their vast customer databases that hold reams of consumer information, as The Wall Street Journal reports.

Earlier this month, Dentsu Aegis Networks’ media agency brands began using Merkle’s PII-based M1 platform for centralized data planning and activation. For some initial campaigns using M1, Ray says there’s an average improvement of 20% in return on investment “and that’s simply by cleaning up the supply side in terms of costs, duplication of cookies and so on.”

This video is from The Mastercard Automated Advertising Panel at Cannes Lions 2017. For more from the series, please visit this page.