We all know what is happening with third-party cookies, among other changes in the world of online advertising. The challenge now for marketers is to move on from noting their demise to planning a seamless transition.
Google may have delayed the phasing out of third-party cookies on its Chrome browser until 2023, but that does not stop the need for the industry to be making changes and preparing now, especially given the size of the market for digital ads that are already without cookies – across Safari, Firefox and other browsers – and of course with the changes to app advertising in Apple devices that came with iOS 14.5.
The GDPR data regulation taught us it pays to plan ahead, rather than leave it to the last moment. That is why the digital marketing industry has to see this time right now as a period of education, evaluation and action. Brands need to be shown what is available to them. They need to be assured that, even though cookies will no longer support the way we have planned and measured digital campaigns in the past, with emerging technology solutions they will be able to continue reaching the right audiences and driving sales without impacting privacy.
There are already new and effective ways to reach digital audiences without any need for cookies, and which don’t require effort to make the switch. But a mindset shift is needed for brands and marketers away from the old ways of targeting and measuring with cookies, with new conversations to be had around the future of measurement and achieving overarching company and marketing objectives.
A boost for privacy
The good news for digital marketing is consumers see better protection of their privacy as a huge positive. It is a major opportunity to restore trust in advertising by moving away from tracking people around the web, which they sometimes just found a little creepy. You only need to look at the vast majority who turned off tracking in apps the moment the option became available with the release of iOS 14.5. We’ve all been at one of those dinner parties where people swap stories about mentioning a brand or looking at their page and then opening up their phones, just to see that brand right there in front of them on their social feed.
Internet users know they are going to be advertised to but being followed around has always felt intrusive. And marketers have always seen the value in one-to-many communications when audiences are relevant to their objectives, engaged in the content they are consuming and campaigns can demonstrate effective return on ad spend: just look at how TV has been booked for decades.
This is a gilt-edged opportunity to stop the practices that internet users have found jarring. The era of microtargeting, and what was a bit of a myth of ‘one-to-one advertising’, is coming to an end. That does not mean that digital advertising is any less effective. The industry needs solutions that bridge the identity gap, deliver meaningful results and honour people’s privacy preferences.
So, there will be two distinct pillars of opportunity to reach digital audiences going forward: those with opted-in, consented first-party data and those without. Given the opt-out rates, it’s likely that the first pillar will become much smaller (and more expensive) and the second is likely to grow to be a much bigger proportion of advertising opportunities in the future.
It is very clear, then, that digital marketing is about to witness a contextual renaissance where advertisers can pick up real-time signals from consumers based on the content they are consuming. At its most basic this has traditionally meant understanding that someone on a golf site is clearly interested in that category – as digital advertising has offered as a targeting solution for decades, going back to the early days of the internet.
But technology has moved on. Our Verizon Media Next-Gen Solutions, for example, take this to another level – enabling brands to continue to reach audiences in categories that they are accustomed to, but without the need for third-party identifiers like cookies, app-IDs or any user-level profiles. We can use a combination of this traditional context around the content being consumed and other real-time data signals like weather, location and device types to power machine-learning algorithms, which can infer a likely audience based on the same or similar categories that advertisers are used to being able to reach through their digital campaigns.
With hundreds of millions of people around the world using our ecosystem of trusted content brands and services like Yahoo News, Finance, Mail, Search or TechCrunch and Engadget, we process around 200 billion data signals daily. We can help our algorithms understand the likely behaviours of different audiences by grouping the different data signals together and projecting what they’re likely to be interested in and how they’re likely to engage with the ad, based on previous experience of similar audiences.
The myth of ‘returning to the 90s’ with contextual advertising really misses the point.
But what about when people are happy to opt in and consent to their data helping them receive more targeted and relevant ad experiences from brands?
Well, we’re ensuring we’re providing privacy-centric, effective solutions here too. Our Verizon Media ConnectID allows people to opt in to share information and continue to receive personalised content, as well as relevant brand marketing experiences, through our Verizon Media Ad Platforms, without the need for cookies.
A new era
It is time to start the next era in digital marketing. Time is running out for cookies. But this new era doesn’t have to be scary or mean the end of relevant or effective digital advertising. This new era has to be planned and prepared for, though. It cannot be stressed enough that now is the time for brands to evaluate what is available and start to get immersed in new solutions.
Working with partners like Verizon Media means it doesn’t have to be a painful process: we’re working to help our advertising customers have a seamless transition, enabling them to continue to get the best from their digital marketing campaigns, across any screen, with privacy-centric solutions.
We want to work together to ensure people can continue to enjoy relevant content and ad experiences in a free and open internet, and advertisers can reach the right audiences across every screen, while respecting privacy preferences at every stage. Smarter solutions mean the change can start now.