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Digital Transformation Brand Strategy Future of Media

Post-cookie success demands a shift from ‘personalized’ to ‘personified’ advertising

By Geoffroy Martin, Chief operating officer

July 26, 2022 | 5 min read

As cookies surge ever-closer to their imminent death, many advertisers are clinging to ID-based targeting solutions out of fear that sacrificing user-level insights will spell their certain demise. But they’re wrong, argues Ogury’s Geoffroy Martin. What’s needed, he suggests, is a shift away from ‘personalization’ and toward ‘personification.’

Cookies falling and being crumbled

/ Adobe Stock

Yes, cookies are going away. What’s interesting is the range of reactions to this ground truth. Taking shape are a few distinct camps that reflect how differently industry players are coming to terms with this fundamental change — or refusing to do so.

Many members of the advertising and media ecosystem still insist on personalized advertising, as manifested primarily through the third-party cookie and other established advertising IDs. They continue to push back against the inevitable, but the race for alternative solutions cannot be turned back.

At the moment, adtech stakeholders can be divided into three main categories that reflect their relative states of acceptance or denial of this new environment.

1. First-party data holders

The first category is of course the walled gardens, followed by the retailers, whose role in the marketplace is gaining importance.

It should come as no surprise that these players will only continue to grow as they leverage their troves of valuable first-party data, guaranteeing sustainability moving forward and securing a prominent role in the marketplace.

2. Advertising ID apologists

The second category is composed of those traditional purveyors of ‘personalized advertising’ who insist on continuing to deliver campaigns based on cookies and other advertising IDs.

They still represent a significant part of the market’s ad spend. Unless they really have their heads in the sand, these players must realize that ad IDs on desktop and mobile will eventually disappear. As it is a matter of when and not if, these players must adapt or risk become obsolete.

What’s more, even if brands still agree to run these campaigns, there is mounting pressure regarding the use of personal data. One can very well imagine a leading decision-maker for a major brand demanding that their media agencies stop all campaigns that rely on IDs in the very near future. The so-called unified ID players also fall into this second category, as they replicate ID-based technologies that are siloed and can’t be interoperable.

3. Privacy proselytizers

Brand marketers will be well-served to walk through door number three, where they will find a growing cohort of open internet players who understand that a new generation of technologies — fully and sincerely respectful of users’ privacy and independent of cookies and IDs — is essential and must be realized.

Of course, contextual and semantic targeting solutions are easily deployable alternatives, but they are not sufficient in truly understanding the interests of a target audience and cannot be considered as real differentiators. It’s crucial to go further.

The future is about personification, not personalization

My belief is that ‘personified’ advertising is the only sustainable alternative to what has been historically referred to as ‘personalized’ advertising. This less intrusive targeting method is based on personas rather than users’ identities, and on the destinations where these personas consume content — instead of the individual users themselves.

If you take a step back and think about it, ultra-personalized advertising is a perversion of the full potential of the internet. A sporting goods brand that wants to promote a new bike doesn't need to accurately target a select few individuals interested in soft mobility who live within a 500-meter radius of its catchment area. This brand wants to target 100,000 or 200,000 people likely to buy a bike and reach them on the media channels where they spend the most time (and no, they don't just browse cycling websites!). This is what personified advertising delivers.

Personified advertising can be achieved by leveraging historical data and an in-depth understanding of the habits and behaviors of internet users, making it possible to define millions of assets and personas. To guarantee the relevance of these insights, this data is constantly updated and validated by surveys and questionnaires of large user panels. Targeting is then refined using delivery and performance data from ongoing campaigns.

Personification is the only truly sustainable solution for targeting a large number of potential consumers in a manner that is both precise and respectful of privacy.

The online advertising sector faces an ultimatum: cling to an old world doomed to disappear — or look elsewhere. It is healthier and more exciting to anticipate, from now on, a future that will reconcile the expectations of both brands and users at last. This new period will be the era of personified advertising.

Geoffroy Martin is chief operating officer at Ogury.

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