Targeting and Transparency: Marketing Privacy-Friendly Ads

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John Wanamaker’s famous quote: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the problem is that I don’t know which half”, needs an update.

For some advertisers, this can be up to 80% of my advertising is wasted, given the dismal match rates of third-party cookies. Headlines touting this technology’s demise are everywhere, but few seem to realize that third-party cookies are effectively dead already.

With the release of iOS 14.5 last year, Apple began implementing features to disallow third-party tracking. Android will implement this feature in the near future. Safari and Firefox already block third-party cookies, so by the end of 2024, Google will simply be the final nail in the coffin when Chrome blocks user IDs for third-party vendors.

It’s time to face the facts: the third-party cookie has collapsed. Cookie-matching is already ineffective. Although not entirely eradicated, this clearly shows that third-party cookies now lack the data to function effectively. And while those cookies may have been handy, the digital supply chain has been notoriously difficult to trace.

Transparency is a hot issue in the industry, and a recent study an analysis of the digital supply chain found that 76% of advertisers are not confident or satisfied with its current levels. Yet many continue to use this opaque system because they don’t know what else to use in its place.

Crumble the cookies

If you haven’t started, NOW is the time to phase out your third-party cookies. There is little sense in waiting for the final death knell before abandoning a technology that already provides such diminished returns.

However, analyzing the delivery of your audience-based campaigns should be considered when considering how to get your message across to your brand’s intended audience. As marketers determine a new strategy, how can post-auction reports prepare you for a “handover”?

Take the time to truly understand where your consumers are spending time in the digital landscape. What can the cookies that previously tracked them around the web tell you about their interests? And how will your business be able to market these interests without them?

Although third-party cookies have been a dominant force in advertising for years, there are a number of technology alternatives that can deliver privacy-relevant advertising and drive site conversions.

Change signal

Many ad technologies focus on more privacy-friendly solutions. Contextual advertising has evolved into a more granular targeting solution and can now enable targeting based on dynamic phrases and custom taxonomies relevant to your campaign, as well as the world at large. By serving ads that contextually align with the content of a page, brands are also often perceived by consumers as less intrusive.

Using these options will not only help you find new ways to grow your audience, it will signal that your business is ready to address privacy issues in the future.

First party data is another privacy option for marketers to consider. Unlike third-party cookies, this data is part of an exchange — consumers give it to you in exchange for an efficient and personalized site experience. In an era of increasing privacy regulations, it is increasingly valuable to have a consumer’s explicit permission to collect and store their data.

Additionally, the data you collect will be personalized based on your brand, rather than more general third-party information. This can help you develop an ongoing and highly profitable relationship with your existing customers.

So which option will work best for your brand?

It depends on what you are looking to achieve. For example, if you’re looking to raise awareness of a new product or service, you can use contextual intelligence as a guide to where to place ads based on where your audience is spending time.

If you’re looking to connect with current consumers or encourage repeat purchases, investing in first-party data and building a personal database of consumer insights may be the best place to start. The most savvy marketers can find ways to combine these options, covering their entire customer base.

Analyze data

When preparing for a transition stage, it’s important to take the time to monitor your campaigns after they’ve gone live. Having broad coverage is no longer an adequate substitute for strategic adaptability. Monitoring the destination of a campaign as it exits should become standard practice.

One option is to perform a post-auction audit, to see which domains your ad landed on. Examine the URLs: are they suitable for the audience you want to attract? These domains can further be sorted into categories, to establish an approximate percentage of the types of domains your ad matches. This will allow you to create a list of high performing domains for future campaigns.

When looking to measure campaign success, keep this advice from Peter Drucker in mind: “What you measure matters.” Prior to an audit or other measurement activity, determine where you would like to see performance improvements.

This information, along with the data used from your metrics, can help guide you towards the best marketing practices for your business in the future.

Adapt your strategy

The crumbled third-party cookie is not the be-all and end-all of online targeted advertising. There are a number of more privacy-focused options that can protect your brand from negative associations. By analyzing the placement and success of third-party cookie campaigns and other means of advertising, marketers can feel ready to adjust their strategies and confidently enter the next phase of privacy-focused advertising.

Doug Stevenson is the co-founder and CEO of Dynamic media. He has over 25 years of experience in the publishing and media landscape. Previously, Doug worked with brands such as AOL, CompuServe and BBC Magazines.

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