Two opposing trends are accelerating at the same time—and its consequences are significant for the future of digital advertising. People rightfully want more control over their data, but when faced with infinite choices they also want ads that are tailored and personalised. In fact, as many as 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations—and 97% are concerned about protecting their data (“Making It Personal” by Accenture, 2018).
Personalisation and privacy are often presented as concepts that are at odds with each other. They are not—but making them work together requires leading businesses to innovate their data practices in a way that proactively addresses people’s privacy and relevancy expectations. Beyond that, it entails industry-wide collaboration, with agencies playing a much more central role in helping brands navigate changing realities.
A recap of what’s changing
Over the last three years, there have been significant regulations put in place across the world to regulate how people’s data is used by businesses. Even as privacy updates with iOS14.5 impact data permissions and efficacy of online ads, one of the more urgent outcomes in this environment is the decision by web browsers to eliminate third-party cookies by the end of 2021, if not sooner.
Because a lot of today’s digital advertising relies on web browsers’ support of third-party cookies, brands are at a significant risk of impacting their performance and no longer delivering ads that are relevant or useful.
There is no one single solution that will address the current issue—rather, the challenge calls for a series of proactive measures. Any first step should involve consumer consent for compliant, legal targeting, which starts with brands being transparent when collecting customer information and explaining in no ambiguous terms how and why it will be used.
How businesses can prepare
As cookies become less effective by 2022, advertisers will also have to think differently about the mechanisms they rely on to understand where their customers are in their journey and adopt new tools that don’t rely on browsers or device IDs.
Equally, businesses will have to create a strong value exchange of users’ consent of their data for relevant content. In a cookie-less world, this means moving on from passive data collection and instead providing real value across the consumer journey, treating data respectfully once it’s collected. Loyalty programs, discounts, VIP experiences or rewards are just some of the ways advertisers can offer value.
“As mechanisms like cookies and mobile device IDs become less available, brands will come to rely on other pieces of information, such as customer email addresses and phone numbers,” says Jan Hofmann-Cassiani, a Facebook product marketing manager based in APAC. “This is information that people have to feel comfortable sharing, which means businesses should take steps to provide value across the consumer journey and treat data respectfully. If people share information with your business, it should be because they see clear and genuine value in sharing.”
To implement changes and reap benefits without missing a beat, advertisers must examine their current data set up, how their business is structured, and the stakeholders they need to involve.
Actions businesses can take:
- Educate users on how their data will be used whilst seeking consent
- Better understand customers by having a clear 1st party data collection strategy
- Leverage 2nd party data from publishers
- Adopt non-cookie reliant tracking solutions to measure campaign performance and apply learnings
- Test new targeting tactics, creatives, messages and reiterate
A look at emerging solutions
Even as other definitive solutions emerge, the Facebook Conversions API tool, which connects businesses to Facebook with information from their CRM and any other online or offline customer interactions, has significantly reduced the reliance on cookies as an advertising mechanism. As with Pixel, Conversions API also requires brands to collect appropriate opt-ins before sharing data, and honour Facebook’s user and privacy concerns. In this way, many early movers are able to provide customers with tailored relevant experiences while supporting privacy and data transparency efforts.
The role of agencies
Beyond this, all meaningful, long-term solutions hinge on industry-wide collaboration. Agencies have a unique role to play as advisors, facilitators and integrators to help clients navigate the evolving ads ecosystem. Here’s how:
- Advisor: raise awareness and offer high-level response strategies
- Facilitator: assess and actively recommend solutions best suited for the client
- Integrator: end-to-end implementation of solutions such as Conversions API
As agencies take on a much more consultative approach to supporting clients in this environment, it opens doors to exciting, new product streams.
Evolving measurement methodologies
As the ecosystem evolves to meet privacy ecosystems, measurement culture will also need to keep pace. It's important to re-examine the KPIs with the lens of long-term growth and impact instead of chasing metrics to justify marketing spend and run business as usual reporting.
“Measurement should be about informing better holistic decision making, and KPIs can be in direct conflict with that. Loosen the grip on KPIs so marketers are empowered to choose true performance,” says Tim Higgins, Accenture’s customer insights and growth lead for ANZ. “The most important thing companies can do is to continue to care about accurate measurement. And in this rapidly changing landscape—that means starting small, valuing progression over perfection and then building out iteratively.”
The most successful data initiatives focus on one specific customer behaviour or segment, measure it end to end, get viable measurement faster, and build up complexity and automation from there. “If organisations expend too much effort in the data collection and modelling phases—by the time they are finished—the use cases have changed and business has moved on,” Higgins adds.
Resources to help you get started
There are resources available to help businesses evolve advertising strategies based on the technical changes emerging in the evolving ads ecosystem:
There are no easy answers to this issue. The digital advertising ecosystem will continue to evolve, and the solutions lie in staying on top of these changes, discussing them and making sure different voices are heard. The industry needs to come together and lead the way on best-in-class data practices, learn from each other and ensure that everything is done in line with people’s privacy expectations.
To hear more on this topic, join The Drum, Facebook, Dentsu, Accenture and CruiSo Digital. Watch the session on demand on The Drum.