Evolving capabilities and changing regulatory dynamics will affect how marketers connect with and engage customers and prospects in 2018

Digital advertising in 2017 saw several major changes that will continue to influence and affect the work of digital marketers in the coming year. As we go speeding into 2018, here are five predictions about how the digital advertising landscape will evolve in the coming year.

US and EU (de)regulations put marketers on divergent paths

Brands that market online in the US and the EU will have to navigate those markets quite differently in 2018.

In 2017, the US and EU regulatory stances diverged in several significant ways. The stark contrast was summed up succinctly in a tweet from David Lee, who reports on Silicon Valley for the BBC, on the day the FCC voted to end net neutrality.

GDPR, which takes effect in May 2018, will have a dramatic effect on how marketers collect and use user data in the EU. In contrast, the US has essentially opened the floodgates on user data (more on that below).

The platforms and ad tech firms, too, are facing two very different environments. The biggest example of this is the record $2.7 billion antitrust fine the European Commission levied against Google for favoring its own Shopping engine to the detriment of competing comparative shopping engines. (Google is appealing the ruling.) It faces two more antitrust charges in the EU. One case is aimed at alleged restrictions in Google’s AdSense for Search contracts with publishers that limit the display of search ads from Google competitors. The other revolves around contract requirements for Android phone makers to pre-install Google Search and Google’s Chrome browser and set Google Search as default search service on their devices.

Retargeting backlash won’t materialize

A retargeting backlash has been a long time coming, but I don’t believe we’ll see a significant change in this area from the marketer’s perspective from Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention alone.

With Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention and GDPR, there have been many doomsday predictions about the viability of retargeting. My prediction is that a retargeting reset won’t actually materialize. Yes, middle-man firms that are reliant on third-party data for audience targeting will struggle, but marketers can easily work around them.

I continued to be surprised this year when talking to (most, not all) marketers about retargeting practices and consideration for users. Very often, concerns about frequency caps and other user experience matters are taken into consideration only inasmuch as those factors impact conversion rates in the short term, despite talk of being customer-friendly. Marketers themselves have complained for years about being poorly or even obnoxiously retargeted, and yet it keeps happening.

However, there are some indicators that my pessimistic take will (hopefully) be proven wrong: The use of AI in predictive advertising platforms may reshape retargeting strategies (though my experience is so far is that if one of these systems “predicts” you’re a prime target, you are inundated with ads), and the adoption of standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads and the IAB’s LEAN Ads may improve retargeting experiences.