What do pending privacy changes and the death of cookies mean for the relationship between media and creative?

Ben Willee
By Ben Willee | 14 June 2024
Ben Willee

The government’s proposed changes to the Australian Privacy Act coupled with the departure of cookies mean big changes are ahead. But these aren’t just issues for media agencies. Creatives, suits and production people have to come to the party to ensure clients are getting the most from their advertising spend. Ben Willee explains.

I know what you’re thinking. Not another ‘death of cookies’ article. And I hear you. After all, we’ve been talking about this for four bloody years now. And while Google has pushed back the date of the cookie funeral, it will happen. Eventually.

In the meantime, there are other related issues now on the table, namely the Federal Government’s decision to bring forward legislating changes to the Australian Privacy Act, now expected to go to parliament in August. 

The combination of these two hot topics has been debated ad nauseam. But I reckon there’s an angle we haven’t sufficiently considered and that’s the relationship between media and creative and what these changes will do to it.

Right now, there’s still people in the industry who don’t think these shifts affect them. If you’re a creative and you’re thinking this is a problem for the media folks, you’re in for a rude shock.

The upcoming changes aren’t a hurdle to overcome; they're an invitation to innovate.

And in the light such massive change, nowhere is as ripe for innovation as the relationship between media and creative.

Rising above the din, one theme is consistent: the revival of contextual targeting. The days chasing customers across the web are numbered and when that finally gasps its final breath, it's back to brilliant basics. What that means is ads that find their home next to content that complements them.

To deliver on that, we’ll need a fusion of creative and strategic media placement, backed by the craft to shape campaigns that resonate on a deeper level.

To do that, media and creative will need to work hand in glove. Suits and production people will have to be ready as well. And there’s some way to go before that is a given.  

As it stands, creative agencies get briefed by their clients for a campaign. Media agencies usually send back a media plan without any discussion or context. That plan might have 100 different placements on it leaving the creative agency to try and unravel what it all means. With a fragmented media landscape that feels like it’s only going to get more fragmented, that's increasingly tricky. Add to that more regulation around the data we need from our customers and cookies making their exit stage left. It's only going to get trickier.

With the split of media and creative agencies starting in the mid-90s, there are plenty of bosses of media agencies who know almost nothing about creative and production.

Likewise, there’s and a bunch of people creative side in the same state of ignorant bliss.

To move beyond this, media and creative are going to have to get closer. That means understanding the role of each placement within the media strategy. Where does it fit in the funnel? What data is being applied? Are they engaged customers? What’s the key metric? Ideally, creative, suits and production people should have a big pile of questions about the schedule.

In the not-too-distant future, we’re going to see a premium on ads that are not just visually appealing but contextually apt. We’re going to need a more nuanced, content-focused approach. Creative will be key to nailing this.

Over on the media side, we’ll be getting back to those brilliant basics which means leveraging first-party data to develop a keen understanding of our target audience, identifying the most relevant content ecosystems, and placing ads that add value rather than noise.

Privacy and cookie changes are unlikely to reduce digital advertising investment. That toothpaste is well and truly out of the tube. So we need to rethink our strategy – from both a media and a creative perspective.

Of course, cookies are just the tip of the data privacy iceberg. With Privacy Act changes coming down the pipe. there’s a massive chunk of ice under the water looking to sink brands that aren’t paying attention.

The dynamic between advertisers and customers pivots towards trust and value exchange. Personalisation, rewards, and meaningful content become the currency of consent. We have to offer customers tangible benefits in return for their engagement and data.

Consider this a call to arms for closer collaboration and strategic alignment between media and creative to ensure client investment in both is rewarded.

Ben Willee is the GM and media director of Spinach.

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