Google has recently announced new privacy tools that will limit cookies, as well as how much tracking can be done online by advertisers. This news comes in the wake of earlier announcements from Firefox and Apple's Safari that their blockers now automatically work on third-party trackers. This means that advertisers who rely on re-targeting will have to reconsider how they circumnavigate the restrictions going forward.
The company describes it as a clean slate for how Chrome will protect users' privacy in the future, and Google is not stopping there. They will also be pushing back on other techniques, such as browser fingerprinting, to reduce the amount of passive information its browser provides. It has gone on to design further tools that work in tandem with known features like Ad Settings and Mute This Ad. These extensions let users know of each intermediary involved in targeting, and who is serving any given ad.
However, these other additions may be more important than they seem. Given that cookies don't work as efficiently on mobile as they do on desktop, and that mobile is increasing its role as the dominant environment, the more significant issue here may instead be the limitations on non-cookie tracking techniques like browser fingerprinting.
Google's engineering VP told us that it has been shown that people prefer ads tailored to their needs and interests, but only when those ads offer transparency, choice, and control.
Google's integrated login cookie means that these measures are not necessarily going to limit Google's ability to watch you online, as Google Analytics and other analytics services still utilize tracking cookies. The rules may seem a little unclear, but the browser's pure popularity means that they have the power to change the entire ad ecosystem. An ecosystem in which they themselves, along with Facebook, already dominate.
A decade ago when the European Union amended its 2002 e-Privacy Directive to require that companies obtain consent for storage or access of data on electronic devices, the biggest consequence was the barrage of cookie consent forms found on websites in the EU. The move was often criticized as an ineffective burden for those who attempt to adhere to it, as well as being almost impossible to enforce. Ten years later we are being faced with another change that has the potential to re-evaluate or even reset how digital advertising works, and it must be handled better.
These changes are heralding an era of going back to basics in our targeting and media buying, but doesn't have to mean that we forget about creative optimization and innovation. Marketers should be reassured that, although cookies are on the path of extinction and are already entirely blocked by two browsers: DCO, creative analytics, real-time creative change, and innovative formats can still drive active engagement for brands, without the need for cookies.
It’s clear that marketers, agencies, publishers, and especially technology companies have allowed themselves to be charmed by technology and data's potential to optimize delivery. The fundamental truth is that the ad creative has to be good, otherwise you end up optimizing the delivery of something that's as useless as a screen door on a submarine. It's a dirty little secret that quality creative with fuzzy targeting has always worked better than mediocre creative with brilliant targeting. A great strategy without great creative is like clapping with one hand.
The demise of cookies means it's time to be smarter with our creative. Savvy advertisers should be rubbing their hands in anticipation, and here's why:
ComScore ARS, a leader in measuring the digital world, released findings from extensive research indicating the importance of sound strategy and active creative elements in driving effective campaign execution for TV and digital. The results showed that creative quality drives more than half of the sales changes for brands analysed; four times higher than the impact of the specific media plan involved.
"Based on our years of research in this space, we've determined that the quality of the creative is four times more important than the characteristics of the media plan in generating sales. In fact, creative is the single most important factor and accounts for over half the changes in a brand's sales over time." A representative for comScore ARS continued: "Getting the creative right is essential, and yet its importance so often gets minimized in the process of developing an ad campaign. Now is the time for advertisers using digital, as well as more traditional media, to get serious about optimizing their creative on the front end, so they don't get a rude awakening when the ads don't work, and they are left wondering what went wrong."
The report went on to say that among campaigns with an above-average creative strategy, 70% resulted in an above-average execution. Similarly, among campaigns with a below-average creative approach, 65% resulted in a below-average creative performance. Zero campaigns with a below-average creative strategy score performed above-average on creative execution.
For now, what it shows is that in terms of driving sales, the quality of the creative is four times more important than the media plan. When we look at ad awareness, things only get better for the creatives among us:
Published in 2013, "The Power of Creation," is the largest and most comprehensive study of perception and impact of online display creative in the German market. It includes an analysis of almost 300 reviews and 40,000 participants. What it showed was that the creative is the most significant factor in getting the ad looked at. Of course, targeting has its merits and indeed accounts for 10% of the probability that an ad will be looked at, but compare this to the almost 50% dependent on the creative, and you can see where priorities should lie.
The study also found that quality within creative is a huge factor in awareness and impact of an ad, where high quality creative can increase viewing time by 600% and can almost double purchase intent when compared with low quality creative.
In a competitive market, it is too easy to try and find the most efficient channel to reach as much of a target audience as possible. It is too easy to show methods and predict results using figures rather than creative ideas. Using the latest tools and data is secondary now, the smart advertisers know that the key to great marketing today is intelligent creative.
Terrence Roane is commercial director, Appetite Creative Solutions