For years, marketers built their organizations and campaigns on the foundation of programmatic’s assumption for user-level data for all audiences. Cue the inevitable unilateral decisions by Google to phase out the third-party cookie and Apple to restrict IDFA, along with new privacy laws. These decisions are quickly turning that foundation into sand.
Here’s how marketers can rebuild on solid ground and thrive in a changing landscape.
Learn the lesson of history and embrace privacy
The year was 1999. The New York Times published an article titled “Software Ad Blockers Challenge Web Industry.” It’s not a new story. Over the next two decades, a series of firms, from Gator.com to Cambridge Analytica, were vaporized for disrespecting consumer privacy. Framing privacy as an obstacle dooms marketers to repeat the mistakes of history because such a view flies in the face of consumer sentiment and an evolving regulatory agenda.
But isn’t adtech working on a solution?
Yes! The IAB’s project Rearc brings together stakeholders across the digital supply chain to rethink marketing to support core industry use cases while balancing personalization and privacy. Individual firms like LiveRamp and The Trade Desk are teaming up on Unified ID 2.0.
This is good work, but a universal measurement solution replicates the past. The trouble is scale — human beings, as well as a deep number of touchpoints. Marketers banking on a tech fix are betting a cookie alternative will scale beyond the cookie, and that laws won’t render that tool useless.
Bottom line here: cooperation is good, but no advertiser, agency or technology vendor can afford to bet everything on a silver bullet. This isn’t a new story. Agility and optionality have always been essential for success.
What can marketers do?
As marketing changes, marketers must look to a wide universe of disciplines and skill sets in order to unlock creativity and reinvent their organizations. Operations inside brands and agencies must evolve, so those teams can reimagine KPIs and strategies without the user-level measurements that currently determine campaign efficacy. But let’s be honest as we rethink the challenge — it was rare that user-level measurements ever translated to a human being with a high level of accuracy. Marketers should focus on four areas:
- Diversify measurement — Test multiple identity graphs across probabilistic, deterministic and CRM solutions. Remember, you’re identifying the best solutions for your brand, not an industry-wide silver bullet.
- Adapt media tactics — Marketers will need to build capabilities for contextual and panel-based targeting solutions.
- Own the opt-in — An opt-in solves everything. Marketers must think creatively in order to engage consumers in conversations about privacy, identify opt-in incentives, and design new consumer-facing interfaces to manage privacy.
- Think differently — Marketers will need to rethink measurement by leveraging subsets rather than total audience. The best lessons come from history. Traditional marketers can bring experience with lift and panel-based measurement strategies.
Now is the time to build a new foundation
Change is never easy. But when an industry is facing the kind of systemic change marketers are currently confronting, there’s a temptation to do one of two things.
Some organizations, quite understandably, bury their collective heads in the sand. They ignore the future, not because those organizations aren’t populated by bright people, but because they lean into the incentives of the old model and refuse to trade the returns of the present for value in the future.
Sadly, these organizations are slow to adapt, and as a result, they suffer. At the other end of the spectrum, a handful of organizations charge ahead into an unwritten future. Their innovation is admirable, but oftentimes the visionaries pay a “pioneer tax,” and sometimes their experiments prove to be brilliant, but early.
At this moment, marketers need to strike the right balance. Plant your feet on solid ground by recognizing the core principles that have always governed marketing. Then begin building a strong foundation for the future by making an informed hypothesis about the emerging model and asking how you can level-up operations to deliver on those core principles as the model becomes more concrete.
Kara Puccinelli serves as Amobee’s vice president of Global Enterprise Accounts. In that role, she leads the strategy, deployment and service for clients around the world and is responsible for building and executing against a roadmap to drive business outcomes. Based in Chicago, Kara has been at Amobee (previously Turn) for more than seven years where her primary focus has been working with large, enterprise and agency clients and leading strategy for Fortune 500 brands with a focus on developing custom cross-channel solutions.