Marketing and Research Consulting for a Brave New World
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The whole ecosystem for digital advertising is about to change when Chrome stops supporting third party cookies (2022) and Apple kicks mobile identifiers in the shins.  Such identifiers are the basis of targeting, the way we connect data for MTA modeling, and how we attempt to cap frequency in digital media ad delivery to a given user.  Targeting in particular is worth fighting for.  I have recently helped to lead a major industry study that proves that targeting the right people, can predictably improve ROAS by 50-100% and that those targets alone exhibit 5 TIMES the ROAS vs. consumers not in those targets. (Builds on my Persuadables research). This benefit of targeting can be achieved for each and every campaign dollar. Add to this that MTA can improve marketing ROI by 30% for dollars optimized via those models (MMA industry research) but needs identifiers to link ad serving and conversions for given users.

Marketing cannot sink back to only having context-based ad placement or macro level marketing mix models for determining ad effectiveness.

There are a few broad response strategies for marketers to consider:

  1. Big Player Strategy. Go all in with big players like Facebook, Google, Amazon, addressable TV providers who each have their own graph that works across device. But realize what happens in one walled garden is unlikely to be connectable to other walled gardens.
  2. Replacement strategy.  Big AdTech partners like The Trade Desk, Live Ramp, Neustar, Adobe, Oracle, Verizon media are not going to let their businesses implode.  They are working hard to develop a replacement for cookies that will preserve the ability to target the broad inventory across the web beyond the big players. Marketers should want to preserve this option.
  3. Opt-in panel-based strategy: an opt-in panel of consumers allowing their digital behaviors to be tracked, willing to take surveys, and can give you line of sight into walled garden ad serving and conversion behaviors.  This might become your best data source for determining ad effectiveness at driving conversions and brand attitudinal lift.  

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the problem…

Identifiers that match across the demand (marketers) and supply side (media) are the basic connector for targeting via programmatic real time bidding which currently accounts for more than 80% of display according to eMarketer. These identifiers are also a basic ingredient for MTA modeling, frequency capping, and 3rd party segments that can be licensed. These identifiers heavily rely on 3rd party cookies and pixels and which are also the basis of how marketing research providers link ad serving with survey invitations to assess advertising effectiveness. All of this is in danger of going away.

Now, let’s dive deeper into response strategies plusses and minuses. These are not either/or…a marketer might find they need all three.

Big Player Strategy. Google and Facebook in particular have been working towards clean rooms and cohorts.  Clean rooms combine first party data from the advertiser and the media company in a privacy safe way BUT…while you will get deeper measurement of ad products a given walled garden offers, you will not be able to combine walled gardens together this way.

What the FLoC? Google has recently introduced Cohorts that they call FLoCs based on Chrome browser and search behavior with impressive early results. I’m pretty sure Facebook has something similar. These micro-groups preserve individual anonymity but have similar clustering of interests.  I am not yet aware of how a marketer can translate their sophisticated targets (especially following my white paper recommendations) into FLoCs but should have conversations with their partners.

Replacement strategy. Typically, data matching for programmatic exchanges is enabled by on-boarders like LiveRamp and DSPs like The Trade Desk. DSPs are primarily oriented to that alternative to the big players…the open web and addressable TV since walled gardens like Facebook are closed architecture. Third party cookies and pixels are a big part of constructing their identity/device graph today that on-boarders use so if 3rd party identifiers go away, on-boarders will need a replacement approach for linking data together. Possible replacements that rely on first party data (primarily hashed e-mails) are being developed by a number of AdTech providers. It would be wise for marketers to work closely with a few of the possible replacement solution providers NOW.

Opt-in behavioral panels. DISQO (disclaimer, I consult with them) has created a measurement solution that does not rely on cookies or pixels.  As explained in their white paper, they have recruited a large number of fully permissioned consumers to have their behaviors tracked on desktop and mobile devices. DISQO’s technology gives it line of sight into behaviors and ad serving inside of walled gardens too!  These consumers also have self-declared demo data attached and can be surveyed. Theoretically, these capabilities not only address the loss of third-party cookies but address the long-standing barrier to fully effective MTA by combine ad serving and conversion behaviors across walled gardens and the open web. This type of solution does not help the loss of identifiers for ad targeting but it might provide your best solution for advertising effectiveness measurement. Marketers might want to check with other panel providers as well (e.g. ComScore, Luth) regarding their capabilities.

The biggest challenge for marketers going into 2021 is the impending loss of 3rd party identifiers. What options are you exploring now and what is your response plan?

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2 Responses to “Marketers number one priority for 2021…the loss of identifiers”

  1. Good stuff Joel!
    Indeed – the future is no longer what is used to be. But in the marketing world, it’s always been about Segmentation, Targeting & Positioning – and it always will be.
    A lot of changes ahead for certain. However, these can be great opportunities if one is proactive, innovative, and willing to put in the hard work.