Why agility should be a marketer’s #1 priority
Google’s recent announcement that it was ending support for third-party cookies and not replacing them with any other identifiers has upended the world of digital advertising.
But advertisers don’t need to be wary about what the future holds. Google’s move is just the latest in a series of paradigm shifts the advertising industry has seen since the days of P&G sponsoring daytime soaps to sell household products to women.
Back then, content served as a proxy for the audience that the brand wanted to breach. Today, with the advent of digital advertising, a wide variety of identity resolution enable us to highly target individual users, with the actual content largely irrelevant.
Google’s move, together with Apple’s IDFA changes and requirements to gain affirmative consent for app tracking signal another swing of the pendulum in an industry where the only constant is change. And just as in the past, the industry will adapt. The future is not zero-sum, and developments in technologies and changes in how people are consuming media present enormous opportunities for growth.
Consider CTV, the fastest growing media channel in terms of time spent, up over 34% year-on-year in 2020 (eMarketer). Or, look at the emergence of retail and television closed ecosystems that offer a wealth of data and precision targeting across devices.
The imperative in this new world is omnichannel and being able to reach audiences wherever they are located. Cookies in many ways served as a convergence mechanism across digital channels - there’s opportunity to put greater focus on the convergence of traditional and digital channels. As seamless as it is for customers to consume media across screens and devices so, too, must it be for marketers.
But with identifiers out of the picture, how can they do it?
Truthfully, there is no single answer and to obsess over simply on finding a replacement is short-sighted and narrowly focused. This conundrum an example where an “all of the above” approach needs to be considered. Here’s how.
First, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Brands need to invest in a diversity of approaches across a media portfolio. To do that, you need a mechanism in place to be able to shift your campaign quickly and seamlessly to meet your customers.
Second, walled gardens have a place, but brands should be aware that today’s dominant player may be tomorrow’s dinosaur, struggling to catch up. Government regulation, shifts in how people consume and use digital media, and industry disruption more broadly can all tear a company’s walls down.
Finally, while extreme precision targeting will have a place in this future as well, brands cannot go all in on identifiers either. Privacy concerns are real, they are relevant, and they are growing. The prospect for additional regulation or other changes mean that these technologies will always be vulnerable to disruption.
In practice, this means that marketers need to adopt flexible, agile solutions that enable them to meet customers anywhere. Where identifiers remain, we must use them. Where they do not, we must aggregate at the cohort level (which is what Google’s FLoC plan does). And where we can’t group cohorts, we must once again revert to content as our proxy.
To navigate this complex new world, advertisers need an independent, neutral, and open steward, one who can interoperate across platforms and the entire media ecosystem to give them the best of all worlds, enable them to unify channels into a seamless storytelling experience, maximize opportunities, and help them take advantage of the technologies of the future.