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How marketers can unlock value and growth in a privacy-first world

By Michael Feeley, journalist

October 18, 2021 | 5 min read

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Consumers making purchase decisions aren’t thinking about channels, touchpoints or the path to conversion. Instead, these days they are seeking out brands and businesses who bring value to their lives, be it in the form of free content, respect for their privacy, tailored ads or a consistent omnichannel experience.



Understanding the needs and passions of your customers via data has become more important than ever but, with traditional means of treating consumer data under attack, how can brand marketers and their agencies master the use of first-party and privacy compliant data to deliver the results they need?

As part of its Agencies4Growth Festival, The Drum in association with Criteo, hosted a panel discussion, ‘The Great Data Reckoning: unlocking value and growth in a privacy-first world’. Jenni Baker, assistant editor at The Drum, chaired the session and was joined by Natalie Firth, head of agency, Criteo; Katie McSweeney, digital, data and technology director, OMD; and Dylan Mouratsing, global head of data strategy at m/Six.

Mouratsing opened the discussion, addressing how client priorities relating to data have changed dramatically over the past 12 months. He said: “Everyone's been facing the same tech and legal challenges over the last couple of years, which has been like hitting a reset switch on client data competitiveness. Many brands have recognized and are embracing the opportunity to leapfrog their data strategies forward while re-thinking their approach for the post-cookie, privacy-first environment. The conversation around data is now getting the attention of the chief executive officer as well as the chief marketing officer and is focusing on how data can be a source of real competitive advantage.”

“Maybe four or five years ago, it was all about who could build the biggest data lake and partner with enough third-party data providers to cover the open web. The legal and technical changes we’ve seen in recent years mean that we now need to engage a lot more directly and broadly with partners of all sizes. There's no one-size-fits-all solution. I'd say that the biggest challenge for us has been planning around the different levels of consent and rejection that we're seeing among audiences. An individual consumer may be willing to have a very deep relationship with one brand or publisher but not another, so as marketers we need to think about engaging consumers travelling at different speeds.”

Everything changes

Discussing the role of agencies in helping clients to navigate the new data landscape, OMD’s Katie McSweeney said: “Agency models are constantly evolving. We have specialists in every aspect of digital marketing, so already had a well-rounded view of what's needed and what the data roadmap will look like, but we wanted to do more. For example, we've launched a ‘Future of Addressability’ initiative to help guide our clients through this time of huge change. We're being honest with them in terms of delivering the latest news as it happens and addressing what that means for their individual businesses.

“It’s been a useful exercise for us to upskill as an agency as well: not everyone on our team is a data and digital expert, so it’s important to enable all of our people to have these data conversations. With so much going on, there’s a massive potential for information overload right now. It’s crucial that everyone on both the client and agency side can understand and discuss these issues using clear, accessible language. Things are still evolving so it's about working with what we know now and being as ‘future-facing’ as possible.”

Criteo’s Natalie Firth spoke of how the company has undergone its own transformation in order to “unlock the opportunities within the world’s largest commerce data set” for publishers, agencies and brands. She said: “We have deep, direct first-party relationships with thousands of publishers and over 20,000 brands, which gives us this rich, valuable data set. Since the pandemic, we've opened-up our data to agencies and partners more than ever in the form of product trackers.

“As an industry, I think we’ve been given an incredible gift, in that we have the chance to prepare for the final withdrawal of third-party cookies and the biggest transformation of our industry we’ve ever seen. Let’s not wait another year or 18 months until enforced change is looming over us again. We have the time and opportunity to do it properly, to work and learn collaboratively, to test and learn and do things in a new way that works for everyone.”

Other topics covered in the session include:

  • Data strategies for walled gardens and the open internet;
  • How agencies can work smarter with their ad tech and data partners;
  • How the challenges posed by restrictions on cookies and digital IDs have led to massive innovation in the ad tech sector, particularly around next generation ‘contextual’ solutions.

You can watch the full panel discussion here.

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