Embracing the Asteroid: Preparing for a Cookieless Future in Advertising

By Elias Psarologos, Blis' ANZ Head of Sales | Sponsored

At the risk of outing myself as an old codger, remember when the cookie was a proxy for a person?

It shocked the Gen Zs in the office to learn that once upon a time, when people were only exposed to one, at most two internet enabled devices, cookies were a reasonable way to measure online audiences.

Cookie deletion and the proliferation of internet enabled devices put an end to that quickly, but it didn’t stop certain publishers, at least for a period, crowing about their ever-inflating “audience” numbers. It was always a mad conversation trying to explain to some that, no, certain publishers and sites didn’t have more Aussie visitors than the entire population of Australia!

Now, as we await the cookie to finally crumble, we are in yet another holding pattern.

There’s a general acceptance that cookies can be an incomplete way of understanding and building audiences - and still it remains for many a foundational piece in their strategies. My constant refreshing of the BBC Sport correctly identifies me as a sports fan, but I also read a sports cars article last week too. Could I be interpreted as a luxury consumer?

Sure my cookie based data says a bit about me, but for most part it’s way off. Try it yourself.

But soon, it will all become obsolete. The asteroid is within view and we all have to take a position: the era of third-party cookies is coming to an end.

Unknowns abound, and the noise has already begun about cookie-less solutions, but navigating this new world can be daunting. As an identity-free partner, here are some touchpoints we at Blis have found useful when working with our clients to transition into the new dawn.

Coming out of the denial phase

Google’s delays gave the industry this false sense of having a little longer to get their heads around cookieless solutions - but thankfully the mood in Australia seems to have shifted of late to one of proactivity and curiosity. But still, there are many that haven’t budged.

The reality is Chrome is the last browser to support cookies. So, if you still rely on cookies, you’re already missing around 60% of the market. It simply no longer makes much sense to arbitrarily reduce your potential audience by not adapting.

Incremental steps

Wholesale change is challenging and when speaking with clients with longstanding dependence on cookie-reliant partners, as an identity-free vendor, we don’t always recommend ripping up the playbook completely. Instead, an incremental approach – with audiences and adoption – allows brands to “fill in the gap”, whilst also the opportunity to test and compare options at a pace that doesn’t jeopardise current ways of working.

Boxing yourself in to smaller, less efficient pools

Data clean rooms or new, smaller walled gardens? Being mindful of the data points within these new ecosystems is critical to ensure you are not boxed into a self-limiting pool of users. Marketing research tells us that most customers are light buyers, so if a key goal of marketing is to constantly replenish, ask potential partners how these new eco-systems allow your brand to consistently acquire in the long term.

Also, don’t overlook efficiency and cost. If everyone is driven to bid and compete for the same Universal ID for instance, you could be locked into more expensive, less efficient buys - so probe vendors not only on how they pass costs on, but also how supply and demand could impact CPMs in practice.

Rethinking identity

Does identity itself need recreating? Or a refocus?

Our colleagues in retail media, especially in the supermarket space, have opened up interesting questions that have always been at the heart of how we at Blis view audiences: If you’re looking to target foodies, pet owners, fitness fanatics - should age, demo, or other uncorrelated data points matter?

With current capabilities, it is possible to use behaviourally rich data points that get closer to what audiences want and do. Take a look under the hood of these solutions, and question whether they can provide relevant data points that actually matter.

Getting back to the marketing objective

Technology may change, but marketing objectives remain refreshingly simple and constant.

Effective marketing hits moments that lead to buying situations, and with modern capabilities, more and more of these moments are now addressable. And the key to hitting all the right notes is having holistic approaches that reflect how consumers actually consume and are exposed to media. Ask yourself: what are the addressable moments available to me and am I giving my brand every chance to resonate?

Rethinking measurement

The way we measure advertising campaigns is going to change.

Some are promising a ‘business as usual’ view of the world, but even a cursory review will show these promises as highly fragmented, vastly incomplete replacements.

However, a new breed of holistic measurement that doesn’t rely on connected cookie pools is emerging. For the first time, you can effectively measure a digital campaign alongside CTV, video, DOOH, and other channels. Ultimately measurement should be about how well your brand is engaging with your audience, so ask potential partners about how their measurement solutions help measure the impact of your strategy, not just channel.

Probe the privacy track record of your potential partners

And finally, privacy itself. Sure, there’s a big game of musical chairs going on at the moment for advertising’s next new-normal, but it’s easy to forget the whole point of the whole exercise: the right for consumers to have agency in how their data is used.

Probe potential partners and be critical. Does their approach stand up to the privacy demands of consumers and regulators or are they just another step in the arms race? Even the idea of replacing cookies with identifiers as intimate as an email just feels a bit off, so ask those questions.

Headquartered out of the UK, we at Blis benefit from having been at the coal-face of the privacy movement for close to a decade. As such our cookie-free tech future-proofs us and our clients because our activation and measurement suite allows us to plan, buy and measure behaviourally rich audiences, all without reliance on identifiers.

So even if privacy changes have yet to arrive here, most operators have had to adapt globally (e.g GDPR, etc.), so it’s worth looking beyond the jargon, by checking their privacy track record overseas for insight into how they will operate here.

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