The paid advertising scene is set for more change in 2018 than we’ve seen since PPC became a viable marketing strategy. A mix of new technologies and regulations means we’ll all have to reassess the way we target customers and guide them along the consumer journey.

The businesses that win in 2018 will be the ones that react quickest to the rapid changes ahead and today we’re rallying through the key developments you’ll need to keep up with this year.

#1: Get ready for GDPR

We should probably start with this one as it’s going to affect the way advertisers can legally operate after May 25, 2018. GDPR is basically a new set of EU regulations that protect people’s privacy and data, meaning we’ll need to get explicit consent from people before collecting their personal info.

We’ll also need to tell them how their information will be used and comply to a number of other regulations, including data security measures. GDPR will affect some advertisers more than others but there are few it won’t affect at all – so make sure you know what your obligations are and get ready in time for the May deadline.

For more info on GDPR, check out our extended explanation of the upcoming regulations.

#2: Automate your workflow

Automation has been around for years but the technology is finally coming of age for advertisers. In 2018, you’ll want to move beyond using tools like Buffer to automate your social posts and get a little more sophisticated with your automation efforts.

For example, using AdWords scripts to set your own bid automations or pause campaigns that drop below a certain performance threshold. The idea is to automate tasks that would otherwise take hours of manual work to complete – particularly actions in large volume. So, instead of adding the same keywords to fifty different ad groups, you create a script to apply them all at once.

You can also use automation to create alerts that warn you about performance drops and optimisation opportunities. Likewise, you can automate your reporting and analytics process to improve efficiency and reduce mistakes.

#3: Get to grips with machine learning

The step on from automation is machine learning, which analysis datasets to spot patterns and make predictions. Over the coming years we’ll see a growing number of machine learning marketing tools that turn data into powerful, actionable insights. We’re already starting to see predictive analytics tools hit the market that promise to spot opportunities you’d never be able to see no our own.

You don’t need to sit back and wait for third-party tools to provide the machine learning machine, though. Get to grips with the technology yourself and you can build your own algorithms that spot bidding opportunities, new search trends and all kinds of insights based on huge volumes of data.

#4: Personalisation within GDPR regulations

This one is going to be tricky for people you’re targeting within the EU and UK. We’ve finally got the technology we need to personalise entire consumer journeys and now GDPR is going to restrict the way we collect the user data we need to make it happen.

Again, how much this will affect you directly remains to be seen and a lot will depend on how you approach advertising. This only applies to prospects in the EU and UK as well, so targeting people outside of Europe won’t be any different.

The challenge will be personalising ad campaigns while complying with the new GDPR regulations. For users who give you consent to collect their data, there’s no problem. The question will be how many prospects refuse to hand over their personal details and how can reduce this percentage.

Only collecting the data you absolutely need will be a good place to start with this. You don’t want people refusing to hand over details because they’re not comfortable with giving you information you won’t use. Earning user trust will also be more important than ever as you aim to show people that you’re providing an improved experience by collecting their data. Above all, you’ll need to prove that you’re able to keep user data secure – not only for the individuals but also the GDPR regulators.

#5: Rethink your advertising channels

This one won’t be a drastic change but 2018 looks like the year where Google and Facebook finally have some competition to think about. The first contender will be Amazon which is planning to make a serious push into digital advertising and this could have a significant impact on the nature of video advertising across the year.

Sooner or later, Microsoft will also enter the market with Cortana on a more aggressive level while Facebook and Apple are both ready to unleash their own home devices onto the market. This would put it against Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa in the personal assistant arena and Facebook is also working on its own platform to compete against its rivals. Apple already has Siri, of course, but we’re yet to see any indication that it will monetise the platform with ads or break away from Google Search for user queries.

This won’t be enough to start an epic advertising war between the tech giants but it will certainly give Google and Facebook something to think about. Amazon isn’t something they can simply buy out or squash like so many competitors before it. Interesting times ahead.


A lot of advertisers are freaking out about the prospect of GDPR in May but the new guidelines also bring opportunities that many brands will fail to capitalise on. As always, there will be winners and losers after May 25 but the advertisers adapt best will enjoy a fruitful 2018. Not to mention the huge gains technology like automation and machine learning promise to bring to the table. This is the most exciting year digital advertisers will have witnessed in more than a decade, so make sure you’re in line to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.