The Golden Ticket to Targeting Success in 2019

Ad spend is expected to top £20 billion for the first time this year, mostly thanks to digital growth. But ensuring such substantial investment doesn’t go to waste may be challenging in the post-GDPR era.

Since enforcement, the regulation has put online privacy in the spotlight and inspired many individuals to seek control of their personal information; see the cases levied against Google in late 2018. As a result, some insight sources of third-party data are in jeopardy and so is the ability of marketers to deliver tailored advertising. Bad news considering messages with custom elements, including calls-to-action, fuel 202% more conversions.

Marketers therefore face a dilemma: how can they provide the unique experiences needed to keep audiences happy and ROI healthy, while staying compliant?

GDPR: a new landscape for digital data

There is plenty of evidence to show audiences have a real appetite for personalisation. Research reveals that most consumers (56%) value bespoke discounts and 47% are interested in real-time offers based on browsing activity. Plus, one-third (36%) of Brits are more likely to engage with tailored ads. So, if marketers want to maximise advertising impact, tailoring is essential. And to achieve this, they also need data that details individual tastes, needs, and habits — exactly the kind of insight covered by the new regulations.

It’s well known that consent is at the foundation for digital marketing in the GDPR framework. Generally, the industry also agrees that giving individuals power over data is helping to improve trust and audience relationships. But the ability to deny permission also increases the possibility of restricted access to traditional sources of targeting information, such as third-party profile data, and greater dependence on first-party information. After all, third parties can’t directly ask for consent.

Consequently, marketers need a new way of collecting insight that can drive relevant and meaningful advertising — and better results — without infringing GDPR requirements.

Rediscovering the power of context

The best and simplest answer to the current data issue is a change of perspective. Namely, recognising that data doesn’t have to identify consumers to power effectively customised ads. Take, for instance, the contextual information that can be gleaned from URLs.

Although not the most commonly used resource, URLs provide a valuable window into the audiences that pages will appeal to via data about content topics, access dates and times. For example, if a consumer loads an article on ice hockey while the Winter Olympic Games is showing on TV, it’s probable they are passionate about outdoor sports and may be interested in ads offering discount snowboarding breaks or sports TV bundles. And because this data doesn’t contain any fields that could make individuals identifiable — gender, name, email address, purchase history — it is not subject to GDPR stipulations and won’t put privacy at risk.

Additionally, there is potential for marketers to gain even further insight from URLs using advanced technologies. Specifically, by leveraging tools with the capacity to apply smart techniques such as natural language processing (NLP) to mimic the human brain, marketers can conduct deep semantic analysis of site pages. This will allow them to assess content as real audiences do: establishing the exact meaning of each word on the page, the sentiment certain phrases will inspire and the emotional context. The end result is diverse contextual data that can be harnessed to build refined audience segments, combining semantic information with first-party data to precisely target ads.

Despite the growing number and influence of online privacy regulations, data is still vital to advertising success in 2019. Consumer expectations of relevance and personal resonance haven’t dropped, and that means those keen to retain audience favour and outshine their rivals can’t afford to let personalisation standards slip.

With conventional data supplies dwindling, marketers need a new golden ticket to bolster first-party data and enhance targeting  — and right now, it looks as though the solution may lie in an often-overlooked quarter. By tapping the hidden assets of URL insight and blending them with existing audience understanding, marketers can fill the gap left by third-party sources and ensure ads remain engaging, profitable, and compliant.