• This article is part of our Future of Addressability series. Contributors are industry leaders invited to share their perspective on how marketers can successfully navigate changes brought on by the deprecation of third-party cookies.

    “Whirlwind” is an understatement when it comes to describing 2020 thus far. In January, Google announced that Chrome would end support of third-party cookies within two years, officially ending the traditional way of tracking digital media. Then, a global pandemic flipped everyday life on its head. Marketers and agencies reallocated millions of dollars due to the cancellation of sports and events. Brand messaging shifted on a dime to address headwinds from the pandemic, a global recession, and racial injustice. 

    Companies are running their businesses from thousands of remote locations, with many employees becoming their children’s stay-at-home teacher on the side. C-suite priorities change by the hour. While industry groups have asked Google to delay the Chrome browser timeline and California’s attorney general to push back enforcement of CCPA until the fall (if not into 2021), both were met with a ‘no.’  Apple took another bite out of advertising with the release of iOS 14 this fall, which requires users to opt-in for app tracking, impacting device id collection. Addressing these topics are my top priority at Hearts and Science, but where do they fall on marketers’ and publishers’ lists?

    Prioritize privacy regulations and browser changes

    While many marketers are focused on launching the next product, planning holiday campaigns, or changing creative messaging to address topical themes, now is the time to take action. It is imperative that marketers continue to stay up-to-date, learn, and strategize around privacy regulations and browser changes. 

    Thankfully, back in January, Google provided the industry with a two-year runway until these changes officially take effect, but the reality is we’re already down to less than 18 months—and the third-party cookie is already becoming less relevant. Having little information on Google’s possible solution poses a challenge to everyone, causing marketers to research alternatives or wait for a solution to emerge. 

    Advertisers will have to ask, how will I continue to reach my target customers without the use of cookies? What can I do to ensure my first-party data becomes the foundation for effective, engaging, and privacy-conscious campaigns? Where do we invest in our tech stack? What happens to multi-touch attribution (MTA)? If we are exploring MTA, do we continue? How will we measure digital media campaigns more effectively? Answers to these questions will inform how brands choose to rearchitect their Mar Tech stacks and partnerships.

    The next year-and-a-half will require agility within the industry as it undergoes a major shift. With it brings the opportunity for us to reimagine how to effectively understand, connect with, and reach consumers. Marketers and their agencies will need to work hand-in-hand to find the best solutions based on their business goals. Publishers will need to determine how to demonstrate their value exchange to consumers. Though there is no silver-bullet solution, here are four actions you can start on today: 

    1. Shift to first-party-data-based strategies.

    Ideally, marketers should always start with their own first-party data. To gather more and enhance what data they currently have, marketers should partner with their organization’s site development, CRM, big data, and privacy teams to understand the types of data available and how it can be used. This collaboration ensures the business is collecting the right data in a privacy-conscious and consented manner that can be accessed by various teams to drive overall business objectives. 

    Marketers can also supplement their first-party data by layering on partner data to make it richer. For brands with little to no first-party data, they can leverage partner (e.g., Google, Facebook, Amazon) data, as it’s both persistent and consented (areas in which cookies fell short). 

    2. Understand the importance of clean rooms.

    Since raw data logs are going away, publishers are creating clean rooms to help brands analyze and understand audience performance. Clean rooms are cloud-based privacy-conscious environments where marketers can match their first-party data and exposure data with campaigns and receive aggregate audience-level reports from a publisher. 

    Examples of clean rooms include Google’s Ad Data Hubs (ADH), Facebook’s Advanced Analytics, and Amazon Marketing Cloud. However, while using publisher-managed clean rooms is a start, it’s certainly not the end-all be-all solution as they don’t deliver an omnichannel, cross-platform view of paid media campaigns. 

    Marketers need to find their own solutions where they can continue to develop a full understanding of the customer, collaborate with trusted business partners to understand a more complete customer journey, and optimize performance with their own internal business models.

    3. Continually examine your tech stack.

    Marketers should ensure their measurement, identity, viewability, data, and attribution partners have API integrations with the media partners they want to work with. It’s important for marketers and agencies to employ APIs from a tactical perspective in order to ensure data connections between platforms are always up-to-date, especially when it comes to audience-building and meeting privacy regulations in an automatic fashion. 

    4. Create a trust-based value exchange with consumers

    While the walled gardens have strong identity backbones that make it attractive for marketers to lean into as a pseudo-solution for industry changes that lay ahead, the open web has a huge opportunity to show their value in offering premium, curated content that can reach key consumers and diversify media dollars. Publishers need to demonstrate their value to consumers in exchange for a piece of consented, first-party data, such as an email address.

    With a consumer’s email address, for example, publishers of all sizes can then map them to identifiers in the industry, such as those from LiveRamp, Neustar, Epsilon, or Oracle Data Cloud. Email addresses alone may not be a fail-safe solution, as consumers could use a secondary email to sign up for sites. However, publishers can opt into an identity solution that can link that email to a consumer’s primary email and actually reach them with the marketer’s message. 

    Premium publishers are already moving in the direction of authentication strategies, asking readers for their email address in exchange for free content. This will impact long-tail publishers, as the content is less valuable to readers, resulting in a lower percentage of consumers willing to share their email addresses. These publishers will need to consider revamping or find a creative solution to have a direct relationship with readers.

    While it may seem doom and gloom, this evolution presents an opportunity for transformation. We can build a new advertising ecosystem that benefits everyone—consumers, marketers, publishers, ad tech/Mar Tech vendors, and agencies. What can you do to impact and drive the transformation forward?

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