It shouldn’t be a surprise by now: GDPR, the EU Regulation that marketers have feared intensely, finally came into force, taking Romania by surprise – it was not the tsunami we all had expected, but rather a tide that left behind a market quick to adapt and ready to fear the ePrivacy regulation still in the European Parliament. Nonetheless, it was the most important event in the local online market of 2018.

GDPR was intensely debated by professionals and media, prior to and following its enforcement, but its essence was bypassed in Romania. Because put into perspective, neither GDPR or the future ePrivacy rules can be as frightening as the context which triggered their appearance, that we don’t quite fully understand yet.

For one, the need for regulation validates the status-quo that shaped world’s digital landscape in the past years: information is a highly effective online marketing tool. It has allowed marketers a 1-on-1 global approach that had never been possible before. That’s the good news. The bad news is that (personal) information turned out to be a very powerful weapon, in political battles across the globe. Cambridge Analytica is one of the most defining crises of 2018: a ‘major breach of trust’, as Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, described it. It was. On top of an increasingly worrying fake news concern, it was too much not to backlash.

Trust is increasingly becoming the most important asset in online marketing, as people gain more awareness of their power and vulnerability and more control over their choices.

Sadly, the echo of the global turmoil was barely heard by Romanians, however well-connected we may be to the world: 11.7 million Romanians between 16-74 years old are now Internet users, with 86% of them connecting online from their mobile phones. But the fact is we’re still most interested in Social Media, Emails, Music and Online Shopping. Not bad at all for the online marketing industry, stable, all grown up and doing what it knows best in the wait for the next big thing: Artificial Intelligence, powered by 5G.

The new technology will sweep us off our feet, far beyond our advertising market. For Romania, a digital challenger as McKinsey sees us, 5G can be a powerful driver of growth for an increasingly important economic sector. ICT finished 2018 at around 7% of our GDP but has the potential to double in the following years. In 5G terms, the sky is no longer the limit.