Brands, agencies and ad tech vendors have been aware for years of the shortcomings of cookie-based advertising technology. And now regulators are forcing the issue with GDPR and possibly even the EU ePrivacy directive which in its current form would make life difficult for the European digital advertising industry.

It’s time to assess the opportunities and specific tools available to ready us for a new, more value focused, digital world. In doing so, we need to take a step back and review the processes and practices that underpin the simple transparent collection and activation of customer data. The output of all these processes won’t just be protection, but an entirely new set of tools and practices that help deliver more value to consumers and their interactions with a brand.

Indeed, there are a range of technologies emerging that don’t rely on cookies at all. Moreover, these technologies are capable of analysing consumer intentions on the web using first party data. Cumulatively these innovators are helping the ad-tech industry solve the problems of consumer privacy, brand safety and efficiency of digital ad spend.

Intent marketing

In line with this, a trend that is set to explode in 2018 is intent-based marketing. As opposed to identifying audiences based purely on a profile or demographic, intent marketing is the process of identifying and then targeting actual signals of interest in a product or service. Keyword technology, for example, analyses online conversations, and matches this with a brand’s first party customer data to then match the best content with consumers based on known current interests and behaviour, rather than retrospective cookie analysis.

By doing this brands can increase their value in a consumer’s life, which is ultimately dictated by the quality of the content and conversations that they produce. But in order to demonstrate value, brands and content must establish contextual relevance in the moment. Context, or marrying the right ads to the right content in real-time ensures a brand can drop in when it matters, with an audience it will resonate with. Context therefore takes us from a cookie reliant world of engagement, based on yesterday’s behaviours, to a model which is based on the now.

But the real Holy Grail for intent marketing is to predict what consumers will be interested in tomorrow. And with GDPR around the corner, data-driven success will be dependent on a brand’s ability to react to changing agendas, as opposed to setting them. Marketers need to accurately predict where audiences are going to next, and be identifying keywords and conversations from millions of sources online, covering all social and news channels. Those who can quickly and effectively analyse trending topics and current conversations will be able to capitalize in the moment and win over the consumer with the most relevant content.

For example, during the Christmas ad season, retailers who used predictive technology were able to join conversations created by the launch of each brand’s Christmas ad, therefore capitalising on the themes and trends in real time. As the content of the ads are a closely guarded secret, traditional targeting strategies would struggle to identify the themes and then react in real time. Yet those that utilised predictive technology were rewarded with the ability to own the moment.

Competitive edge

By applying predictive data to a live audience strategy, advertisers are given an edge over competitors and are put in the forefront of something before it peaks. These insights give advertisers the leverage to develop smart bidding strategies on hot trending content to create more effective and authentic advertising campaigns.

There’s no stronger signal in advertising than intent. In order to meet constantly changing customer demands, marketers must harness their data to predict what customers want. Ultimately, this will help brands to recognise their customers as individuals, understanding their needs and predicting their intentions, to deliver content and suggestions tailored to each customer — all in real-time. And as we move into this ‘brave new digital world’, this has never been more important.