Let’s get personal – our focus should be on real people, not cookies

Katie Field, MD UK, Viant Inc

Two weeks ago, Admiral insurance announced it was planning to use young drivers’ Facebook profiles to help set car insurance premiums. While Facebook blocked the plans from coming to fruition, the idea was an interesting one.

Admiral had identified that when they assessed new drivers for a policy, they didn’t have enough data to make a sensible assessment about their risk, so turned to other sources. In theory, the more data you have about a person, the more informed a decision you’re able to make about them. Ultimately, this would have allowed Admiral to personalise quotes based on individuals, not probability.

The same could be applied to advertising. It makes sense that the more data you have about an individual, the better you’re able to serve relevant and targeted ads to them. Yet true personalisation - targeting individuals rather than behaviours, is still not commonplace.

Personalisation is nothing new. In the retail space, Amazon have been suggested products based on shopping habits for years and in entertainment, Netflix curates and suggests content users might like based on what they’ve watched before.

As consumers, we’ve come to expect this highly personalised experience as the norm and will reject anything that falls short of this. But cookies struggle to offer this. Not only are decisions based on behaviours, not people, they can often be out of date. Three quarters of cookies are deleted every month, and two-thirds of IP-connected devices don’t accept cookies. That means if you want to target a consumer who visited your website a month ago on a mobile device, it would be nigh on impossible to find them again using a cookie-based approach.

That’s why it makes sense to target ads based on information about real individuals, not cookies. Using first-party data in online advertising campaigns to find real individuals means more personalised, relevant advertising that doesn’t irritate audiences.

To offer a truly cross device experience, this is crucial. The latest IAB Digital Ad Spend report revealed the amount spent on mobile display ads has now overtaken the amount spend on PC and tablet display – over £802million in H1 2016. With such vast sums being spent on mobile display, advertisers need to know this spend is effective and is reaching the right audience.

Yet cookies simply don’t work on mobile and tablet devices, so brands are left guessing whether the same person is being targeted with the same ad across multiple screens. Not only can this be irritating for the user, but it isn’t efficient for the advertiser. Advertisers will more than likely be spamming their potential customers – rather than cultivating them with interesting and sequenced messages, timed to reach them at a particular moment in their day.

With a people-based approach, brands are able to reach identifiable people, rather than cookies, across devices by using registered user databases. This is exactly what we offer at Viant, using a first party database of over one billion people. Other progressive companies like Facebook and Google are also driving this move to a much more personalised approach.

By using registered user data, people-based marketing gets advertisers closer to their dream of delivering personalised messages, on an individual basis, across different channels and devices. The ultimate user experience is right around the corner for many brands and the early adopters of these emerging one-to-one personalisation technologies will be the biggest winners.

Viant are hosting a people-based data breakfast alongside The Drum on the Wednesday the 23rd November at the Ham Yard Hotel. To register your interest in attending, click here.

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