The impending disappearance of third party cookies has no doubt created a new race in the adtech industry, writes Babs Kehinde – but there are a few points that need considering if it’s going to get the pivot right
Google’s announcement that its Chrome browser will no longer support third party cookies was the final nail in the coffin for old-school ad tech. The cookie has facilitated the industry’s progression over the past decade and created scale and targeting opportunities never before seen in advertising. The time has come to move on to bigger and better things.
The fundamental benefit of the cookie was that it allowed advertisers, publishers, and tech companies to identify online consumers – albeit with varying degrees of accuracy and reliability. Today’s challenge for publishers and advertisers is to foster relationships in such a way that consumers can be treated as individuals without compromising their trust or online experiences.
Overcoming trust issues
The media, government, and technology companies have done a good job of unveiling stories of bad actors online and educating consumers about the various perils of sharing information online. This perceived vulnerability means that consumers are rightly cautious when it comes to giving away personal information.
In order to prevent this becoming a barrier to the post-cookie progression of the online advertising industry publishers and brands need to foster relationships with consumers that are built on a trusted exchange of information.
For publishers this means knowing who their audiences are so they can provide them with the best possible content experiences; for brands this means knowing what makes their customers tick; and for consumers this means understanding that when publishers and brands know who they are their online experience improves.
Consumer centric marketing, reinvented
Part and parcel of modern marketing is understanding your audience and customers and providing custom experiences to get better results. In the past, this has been referred to as ‘consumer centric marketing’. However, consumer centric marketing doesn’t capture the full spectrum of requirements for true success. We need to think about the next evolution – audience addressability.
Audience addressability is about being able to identify each consumer as an individual, understanding how they use their different devices, and how they engage across various domains. It’s this deeper level of understanding that paves the way for better advertising experiences and measurement. Walled gardens are great for providing easy access to addressable audiences at scale – the challenge for the rest of the industry is to work together to compete effectively for ad spend and deliver outstanding results for publishers and brands and superior experiences for consumers.
Brands have data in their own right and need to reach new consumers. Publishers have data in their own right and need to retain their audiences. It doesn’t matter whether a user was a customer of a brand first, or a reader of a website first – what matters is that both the brand and the publisher can be confident that they are seeing the same person and trust that the data they share will be used legitimately and in a mutually beneficial way.
Who am I?
If we’re saying that consumer trust is the linchpin in the success of identity and thus audience addressability, then we need to lay the foundations for brands and publishers to choose how and when to share first party and contextual insights. For example, I could be a loyal Guardian reader and also a Liverpool football fan. When it comes to current affairs the Guardian will usually be my preferred destination, however, if I want to see Liverpool’s winning goal from the weekend I’m not too fussed where I see it as long as I trust that the footage is real. What I do care about is that my future online experience remains meaningful and relevant.
As an industry we need to be mindful that consumer behaviour is persistent but data and insights need to be surfaced at the right time and shared with the right partners. Following the example I gave before, the fact that once in a blue moon I visit a website to watch a football goal doesn’t mean that I want to be continually targeted with ads for that website, or that my loyalty to the Guardian has diminished, it simply means I wanted to see that goal – I’ve not changed as a person and neither should my online identity or experience.
This is where both the content and the context of the domain I am visiting as well as the advertising messaging that I am receiving are pivotal to my experience and long term perception of that website.
The consumer still comes first, but so does the publisher and the brand
The impending disappearance of third party cookies and the pivot to audience addressability has no doubt created a new race in the ad tech industry. There will be players who set off like a hare, sprinting off to beat the tortoise, but short-term wins will be few and far between. This is a race suited to the humble, wise, tortoises out there.
To succeed in delivering a truly valuable addressable audience solution brands, publishers, and technology companies will need to spend time understanding the true value of sharing data.
Firstly, there must be confidence within all parties that the data to be shared is about the same person and that it has been collected in a transparent, informed way. Secondly, the insights gleaned from shared data sets needs to be actionable otherwise it’s meaningless. Thirdly, the actions that can be taken need to provide brands with the opportunity to increase sales, give publishers a fair opportunity to monetise their content, and create premium experiences for consumers.
With all this talk of change, we need to remind ourselves that the nature of what we’re doing is the same. What is changing is the fundamentals of how we do what we do.
You could argue that the industry lost its way focussing on understanding audience behaviour predominantly through third party cookies when there were more robust sources available but maybe that wasn’t a bad thing as it was the gateway to a huge swathe of innovation. What matters is that we collaborate and re-focus on what matters: building trust, ensuring a fair value exchange, and delivering premium online experiences.
It’s very encouraging to see that the industry has clearly built on our experience and evolved our practices as the landscape has changed. This has driven the encouraging signs we’re seeing of a lot of collaboration, commonality, and cooperation.
Originally published in mediatel news