With GDPR, and the possibility of ePrivacy, the digital advertising landscape will be forced to change. Here, Nano Interactive’s Carl White argues the case for factoring customer intent in a post-cookie world.

One day, 2018 will probably be reflected on as a pivotal year in the history of advertising. Taking full effect this month, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations will make retrospective cookie-based analysis, the most common method brands have used to target customers online, increasingly difficult. This will be a game changer for not only EU-based companies, but any global brand targeting European customers.

Additionally, coming hot on the heels of GDPR, will be the EU’s ePrivacy law. The launch date has yet to be confirmed but, when it does arrive, the cookie regulations it implements will likely be even more stringent than those of GDPR.

So what other tools could advertisers use to help identify and target people beyond their profile or their demographic? This, I believe, is where intent marketing comes into its own and has the potential to solve many of the challenges brought about by GDPR, but also to help create a much better experience for the end user.

Before I explain why, here’s a little background on this form of advertising. Put simply, intent marketing is the process of identifying and then targeting actual signals of interest in a product or service, as opposed to pinpointing audiences based purely on retrospective profile or demographic data. Instead of simply targeting what you assume to be your core audience, using intent signals allows a brand to open its advertising up to everyone and anyone who is interested at that moment of time.

Whilst intent marketing isn’t a new concept in our industry, the advent of machine learning capabilities means we can identify user intent in ways never done before and at an unprecedented scale. A good example of this is an area my business specialises in, search intent targeting, which involves delivering brand messages, in contextually relevant environments, in the instant that consumers search around a given category or subject territory. AI is now enabling us to create detailed maps of a user’s search activity and to better predict what else they might be interested in and what they are most likely to respond to. Crucially, all this can be done without relying on cookies, meaning, in a post-GDPR world, search intent has the potential to play a central role in the future of behavioural targeting.

However, the fact that intent marketing is facing a renaissance doesn’t only come down to the demise of the cookie. It’s also being driven by the people who ultimately experience online advertising. Internet users have become tired of being force-fed irrelevant ads that serve no immediate need for them, and they’re becoming much more confident in expressing their frustrations. You only need to look at the growing influence of the Coalition for Better Ads to see how this trend is playing out.

These evolving consumer expectations, along with the impact of new regulation, mean the status quo in our industry is ripe for change. To be successful, marketers must now move on from the retrospective-based analysis they’ve become overly reliant on and pivot towards real-time, in the moment targeting of consumer behaviour.

And, with new AI analysis techniques emerging, our ability to understand and predict people’s intentions and deliver content and suggestions tailored to them, will grow ever more sophisticated. Advertisers must embrace this opportunity or miss the chance to finally ensure their advertising appears in the right context at the right time and, in doing so, also win the trust of the user.

The cookie has played an important role in helping to create the multi-billion pound industry we work in today and has supported many thousands of online publishers over the years. But, it’s now time to move to the next phase of growth. With a digital advertising ecosystem built around user intent, we can finally create a sustainable digital market, boosting efficiency of ad spend whilst embracing consumer needs.