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Think Different. Get Smart. Be Ready: Life Beyond Third-Party Cookies



Havas CX helia's Mark Arnold explores the areas brands must prioritise, and fast

Think Different. Get Smart. Be Ready: Life Beyond Third-Party Cookies

More change, more hassle. The demise of third-party cookies feels like another marketing headache. But let’s be honest: the consumer within us all welcomes it, and so we should embrace it. With eyes fixed on our data and martech investments, we’ve lost sight of the human aspect of marketing. What we do is fundamentally about people – not data, devices or IDs. We’ve loaded the scales in favour of automation and programmatic solutions, overlooking the true ownership of data and what it actually feels like to be retargeted across an open web. 

Just speak to anyone outside of the industry to understand the need for people-based strategies and solutions, underpinned with consented, ethical data policies that deliver great CX. Not to mention the need to rebalance cost-effective advertising with consumer privacy rights. 

But what about effectiveness?

No matter how virtuous the ambition, it doesn’t change the fact that third-party cookies are critical to paid digital advertising – and brands can expect personalisation and measurement issues they’ll need to address, including:

• Decreased targeting / retargeting capability on third-party sites (but is that really so bad?)

• Less effective programmatic ad buying

• Increased challenges onboarding offline data to online

• Less effective performance measurement and inaccurate attribution

• A tighter grip on the publisher walled gardens

These are industry-wide challenges. While martech and adtech vendors commit to building new solutions, advertisers too must develop robust identity and data management solutions that address these gaps. 

In reality, third-party cookies are inherently unstable and present limitations:

• 32% of devices already reject 64% of third-party cookies* 

• Many get blocked, being mistaken for spam

• Measurement is already incomplete due to blocking and deleting

• Information can be stolen if the session is unencrypted

• They can be collecting other information you’re unaware of

• Anti-spyware programs often delete them

*Flashtalking Cookie Rejection Report 2020

It’s only right, therefore, that advertisers revisit data strategies, assess market solutions and look to address the imbalances we see today.

The way forward

Let’s be clear: there is no single solution and nor will there be. But smart opportunities do exist, and advertisers should prepare themselves through careful exploration of what’s best for their business. As a starter for 10, here are three strategic areas to prioritise:

1. Zero- and first-party data, and site authentication

Re-assess your maturity and readiness for data collection, management and monestisation. Brands with a higher percentage of signed-in visitors are going to win, as they will be best positioned to build a new set of identifiers to onboard offline audiences to online channels using their own first party identity graphs. This will enable greater levels of addressability with more likeminded partners and publishers.

• Build a unified profile of customers in a customer data platform. Do it transparently and ethically. 

• Reassess consent mechanisms. Ensure the value exchange is clear and get creative with it. 

• Reassure customers. Give them control and make it easy. Most cookie consent banners are too functional, make it part of the experience. 

• Don’t just tick regulatory boxes. Build differentiation and competitive advantage with a proactive stance prioritising customer expectation. 

• Ascertain which data points hold most value. Assess ‘fill rates’ and devise strategies for collection and quality improvement. 

• Make tags actionable. Align the process with your audience strategy. 

• Make sign-in effortless. Give more reasons to do so more frequently to build scale in the identification of site visitors. 

• Make greater use of first-party cookies. Great CX in owned channels will increase organic visits, reducing reliance on paid channels.

• Exploit tech capabilities, such as AMP for email, that enable data collection in creative ways. 

• Explore second- and third-party data. Enrich your customer insights and execute compliantly via a third-party ‘clean room’. 

• Build an audience ‘blueprint’. Ensure consistency in definition and treatment of pre-defined segments across all channels. Centralise governance practices. 

2. Assess the reach and return from consortiums and private exchanges

New ‘open garden’ technologies are being developed at pace. Assess their value carefully and, where possible, insist on proof-of-concept programs that demonstrate ROI. 

Networks include an inventory of several thousand advertisers and publishers. By collecting privacy-compliant user information across a large client base, they’re able to deliver relevant ads to in-network visitors while maintaining the proper level of anonymity. Do you really need such breadth, or the license fees they bring? 

 If breadth is not key, then individual server-to-server partnerships may be best – but they’ll require additional resource, and a holistic view of audience interactions won’t be possible. Google’s proposed privacy ‘sandbox’ will store click-based conversion data which advertisers can connect with via an API to retrieve the conversion value.

Independent research companies, with ‘walled garden’ partnerships, will have the ability to provide a holistic view of consumer behaviours as well as measurement of paid activity. 

3. Get smarter with context and digital to offline measurement

Today, contextual targeting offers increasing opportunities for intelligent placement – text, images and video on a page can be categorised, or the sentiment of the page used, to determine what type of ad to serve and whether to serve it. At the same time, content can be changed dynamically to reflect the context. While this may be a workable alternative for audience relevance, it removes 1:1 targeting and personalisation and fails to fill measurement blind spots.

If you’re driving store traffic through digital influence, explore the existing and emerging vendors and retailers offering measurement solutions that stitch impression with sale. They use either store card membership data (for audience activation and tracking) or geo-location services (also great for insight on competitors). 

In reality, whichever approach you decide is best is for your brand, it will never be ‘job done’. Strategic partnerships, consolidation and innovation will continue to drive trends, and no one solution will dominate. Brands will need to continue to assess (and reassess) the pros and cons of each – and what’s best for one brand isn’t necessarily right for another. 

Mark Arnold is senior data consultant at Havas CX Helia

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Havas UK, Fri, 21 May 2021 08:23:00 GMT