Digital Ad Targeting In A Post-GDPR World

May 25, the advent of GDPR, was the digital ad industry’s Y2K moment.

But more than two months later, there are still advertisers and publishers not targeting users in Europe and elsewhere because of GDPR-related issues.

At Facebook, the balls keep dropping. The company recently announced it was shuttering its Partners Categories program, which enabled advertisers and agencies to tap into third party data from leading brokers to optimize some of the best-targeted campaigns on the social network.

Though first-party data should have been the answer, many marketers aren’t sure that the data collected internally even 18 months ago meets the standards of today’s ad data legislation.

Here are three solutions enabling advertisers and agencies to address the current ad-data-targeting challenge:

Contextual targeting: One of the earliest forms of ad targeting is gaining traction following the brand safety scares and the arrival of GDPR. But by taking advantage of new technologies, contextual advertising in 2018 is enabling better targeting.



 UK-based Channel 4 is using AI technology to identify contextually relevant storylines which enable new targeting opportunities. According to Channel 4’s lead data strategist, commercial, Neil Taylor, speaking at MediaTel's Big Day of Data:  “I can watch a program where a character has a glass of wine, [and] in the next ad break we can automatically place an ad for [a wine brand] – quite simply we’ve created a contextual moment.” 

But does contextual perform?  According to online interviews conducted by Channel 4, the highest level of spontaneous awareness was among those who saw the ad in a contextual placement. Perhaps technology can do for contextual targeting what native advertising did for the old advertorial.

Direct relationships with publishers: One way for advertisers and marketers to take advantage of third’party data is by working directly with publishers thato have extensive data on their readers. Though some publishers have a few GDPR-related bugs to work out, sophisticated technology like Vox's Chorus and the Washington Post's Arc,  (explained further in this MediaPost article) now being licensed by other publishers, is creating targeting and marketing opportunities for advertisers and agencies beyond the readership of these respective publications.

Developing consent models for user data: It sometimes takes time or a tipping point for a digital process to gain traction. For example, ad blockers have been around since the late 1990s, yet they only gained prominence in the last four years. Nearly a decade ago, companies like Personal (now launched to enable consumers to organize, protect and share their data. Now, following the Cambridge Analytica and Russian Election Scandals, consumers are ready to take control of their data.

By giving consumers control over their data, new data models will be created enabling users to benefit from their personal data. For example, rewarded ads, which provide real incentives for users to sharing their data in a controlled manner, could make 2019 the breakout year for consent models for user data.

For advertisers and agencies, this will be an opportunity to gain access to user data presently walled in at Facebook and Alphabet properties.  Given the regulatory pressures facing those two companies, I’d expect them to actually be supportive of user data empowerment.

Rather than cry over the past, it’s time to be involved in the conversations which will determine how we as an industry create new targeting models, embracing user consent, to develop the next generation of ad targeting which will satisfy marketers, agencies, publishers, users and governments.

1 comment about "Digital Ad Targeting In A Post-GDPR World".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, September 6, 2018 at 7:06 p.m.

    What a revelation and revolution contextual targetting will be.   Not.

    Have they not heard of the age-old mantra of communications planning?

    Content.   Context.   Contact.

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