"Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Nancy Smith, President and CEO of Analytic Partners.
While Google’s delayed plan to end the third-party cookie gives advertisers a sense of relief, data deprecation will still continue. The Google delay shouldn’t be considered a time to breathe a sigh of relief, but rather an opportunity to take advantage of the most valuable resource: time.
Marketers are still wrapping their heads around alternatives for tracking, targeting and measuring ads. Now is the time to prepare for major changes by adapting new metrics and measurement frameworks, implementing first-party data strategies and exploring alternative ways to connect with consumers.
Here are a few ways marketers can take advantage of Google's extended timeline and learn to adapt in the eventual data-deprecated, cookieless world.
Assess your dependencies
With the loss of cookies, advertisers will not be able to connect their campaigns to conversion events like registrations and purchases at scale. This means that real-time user-level data will be incomplete and have limited connection to key outcomes.
Brands should assess their dependencies on third-party cookies to understand the magnitude of the impact of data deprecation on their business.
Take an inventory of online traffic by device and browser to understand the percentage of business that will not be tracked. Understand what portion of advertising spend is reliant on third-party cookies and track which (if any) digital properties rely on cookies for personalized experiences.
With this understanding, marketers can begin to create a road map and action plan to address data deprecation with new approaches to understand and reach audiences with a future-proofed measurement framework.
Explore alternative approaches to reach audiences
Since today’s ad tech ecosystems and measurement approaches were built almost entirely on third-party cookies, brands must now look at new ways to serve ads that are still personalized and accurate for their existing and future customers.
One area of opportunity is contextual advertising. This provides an alternative approach for marketers to reach the right people at the right time with the right message. For example, if a user is looking at recipes online, they may be served an ad for Pillsbury flour or from a home goods retailer like William Sonoma. Contextual targeting will likely experience growth with data deprecation, as it is privacy safe and proven results.
Marketers should also look to strengthen and grow their first-party data assets. For example, a brand can combine its first-party data with publishers' data to connect with key audiences. Brands’ first-party data can also be enhanced with additional data for richer customer understanding. That knowledge and data can then be used to establish cohorts or persona-based audiences across platforms to forge new connections.
Adapt your measurement solution and experiment
Marketers need to get out of the “cookie” replacement mindset. There is no true cookie replacement. Promised work-arounds promoted as “solutions” fall short, whether it’s new unified identifiers or identity graphs (which lack the scale), or Google’s FLoC (which lacks the transparency). There is no magical replacement for the cookie.
Challenges with attribution, or connecting advertising messages with outcomes at the user level, are not new. Multi-touch attribution (MTA) solutions have long been challenged due to data inaccuracies and blind spots. Marketing mix modeling (MMM), which often complements MTA with a top-down/bottom-up unified measurement approach, has also been challenged. MMM is too high level and lacks the data granularity or speed needed for robust campaign measurement. The shortcomings of existing solutions can no longer be ignored. With the right mindset, this is a valuable opportunity to innovate measurement.
It’s time to adapt now
Smart marketers will implement a future-proof measurement strategy that will be privacy safe and incorporate multiple layers of data. There has never been a better time to innovate and test new approaches backed by a data-driven strategy.
One truth is evident: We will adapt. Through recessions, media dispersions and consolidations, data and technology developments and other massive disruption, we have learned that the best thing marketers can do is adapt strategies and evolve the tools they use to find success. It’s the only way to get out of survival mode and build for a thriving future.