For years, cookies were the foundation of digital advertising. Marketers used them to group consumers, improve the user experience and collect data that helped target ads to the right audiences. But with shifting consumer privacy preferences, evolving legislation and leading web browsers phasing out third-party cookies, it’s now becoming more challenging for advertisers to understand digital audiences and engage with them in meaningful ways.
So, what can marketers do?
First, they can—and should—re-embrace contextual advertising, returning it to its rightful place of prominence in today’s marketing mixes. This “in the moment” behavioral advertising strategically places advertisements based on a webpage’s content (e.g., advertising an air fryer on a recipe site or protein powder on a weightlifting forum) in order to drive increased engagement. It’s a simple concept, but ever-improving technology makes it easier than ever to scale across formats and screens.
Next, because contextual advertising can’t completely replace everything that cookies offer, it’s also essential for advertisers to leverage first-party data. First-party data from website visitors, app users, loyalty programs and customer lists (CRM) enables a secure comparison of audiences across platforms, trackers and other programs. By growing first-party data, marketers can rediscover a full set of digital capabilities and utilize them in their data strategies to engage audiences in fresh and differentiated ways.
Speaking of data strategies, brands should work with their agency partners to build (or optimize) a comprehensive strategic plan that identifies the specific data that is mission-critical to business activities and ensures that all collection processes gather relevant information while remaining privacy compliant. This will help ensure that digital marketing efforts stay on-strategy while keeping the brand prepared to swiftly respond to industry changes.
Finally, as we move away from stealth data gathering towards active, transparent information sharing, brands and publishers will need to both empower and educate consumers about the benefits of data exchange—showing them the value they are getting in return for volunteering their data for targeting attribution. If customers trust and connect with a brand, they will be more open to providing their data in exchange for an improved brand experience, resulting in a win-win for everyone.
The shift towards increased consumer consent/control presents a variety of new complexities that the advertising industry must grapple with—but it is also provides exciting opportunities for marketers to find new and better ways to target their messaging, gather valuable data and engage their audience in a mutually beneficial manner.
Michael Anderson is a Senior Strategist at Seed Strategy, where he uses his rich background in strategic planning and activation to expertly build marketing plans, digital strategies and tactics that help brands maximize their potential and achieve rewarding engagement across both old and new media.
Edited by Adam Siegel. In addition to being the Editor of The Accelerator, Adam is VP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning concept copy.