This Is The Year Digital Marketers Will Start Realizing They’re Already Living In The Future

Gary Walter, CEO and president, Infutor

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 Gary Walter, CEO and president of Infutor.

Is this the year the cloud of confusion will finally dissipate?

Over the past few years, several factors created a storm that forced marketers to reexamine digital targeting and measurement, consumer consent and the technologies that power each of these functions. The pandemic accelerated remote work, consumer purchasing and consumption patterns while new privacy laws and attitudes reset ethical and legal standards for digital advertising endeavors.

Digital experiences that go beyond 2D screens are expanding the definition of what it means to “be online.” In addition to all these tectonic shifts, this year will be the final trip around the sun for third-party cookies before Google (finally) pulls the plug.

With change as the only constant, here are five predictions for the year ahead.

  1. Tokenization will replace PII data exchange.

Third-party cookies are going away – and so will PII in transit. The present, let alone the future, is all about tokens, aka anonymous identifiers.

Tokenization and secure data transfer is now a proven best practice to preserve data. Linking data at scale – but without comprising consumer privacy – is an imperative.

As consumers increasingly care about where and how their information is stored and shared, the onus is on data collectors to keep it secure and exchange only its transactional or descriptive attributes within clean rooms and analytics sandboxes and using anonymized tokens.

In 2022, marketers will need to develop multi-pronged strategies to incorporate and integrate a variety of privacy-compliant identifiers, ecosystems and platforms. Eventually, we may see this shake out to a handful of approaches, but that won’t happen this year.

  1. Futuristic cloud-based databases will minimize data leakage risk.

Cloud-based data warehouses allow brands to accumulate data, manage it securely and make it accessible to various business units in a predefined format. This greatly reduces the resources needed for hardware and internal security sourcing and for integrating data silos.

With the growing use of clean rooms, sandboxes, no-code platforms and tokens, PII data can now remain safely tucked away while brands target customers and unknown users in new ways. For example, a streaming provider can have its first-party data keyed and enhanced within the cloud database – without having to reveal PII – to help segment and grow a home services target audience.

  1. Move over, big walled gardens – mini-walled gardens are blooming.

As the third-party-cookie-reliant open web struggled over the past few years, marketers looked to Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google as promised lands for targeted advertising. Authenticated users in those walled gardens have consented to be targeted (within limits), which means the demise of third-party cookies will have significantly less impact on them than on the open web.

But gardens come in all sizes. Mobile carriers, CTV and cable services, to name a few, also have authenticated subscriber bases and can reach critical target audiences – with permission – to acquire greater scale.

Some marketers might think targeting prospects will become a thing of the past. I assure you it won’t, especially if mini-walled gardens successfully achieve consent-based targeting. 

  1. First-party data takes center stage.

First-party data is now the centerpiece of any marketing strategy, driven largely by increased customer retention efforts during the pandemic. Advertisers and publishers are maturing.

It’s now becoming commonplace for brands and agencies to invest in ways to get more value from first-party data as they increasingly bring their data strategy and capabilities in house. The rise of cloud-based data repositories makes it easier for brands to maintain data flexibility as their strategies evolve.

  1. The web is now a “second skin” of reality.

In the past, being “online” generally meant people interacting with their computer or mobile screens.

Today, the web is composed of smart home devices, immersive experiences, connected and soon-to-be-autonomous cars, wearables and intelligent devices that can listen and talk – and so many streaming video services that we can barely keep up.

Couple this with the pandemic-induced accelerated adoption of digital technologies, and consumers need to make a deliberate effort to go offline. But these interconnected digital realms also expand the marketer’s playing field, and all of them will require identity resolution.

When the history of digital marketing is written, it will show 2022 as the point when it was proven that privacy and targeted advertising can coexist.

The clouds are starting to clear. Next-gen data tools and identity resolution are table stakes, there’s new appreciation for the value of first-party data and we’ve dramatically expanded our understanding of what digital customer experience really means.

In 2022, digital marketers are finally getting used to living in the future.

Follow Infutor (@infutor) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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