It's time to take a step back and refocus our advertising efforts

It's time to take a step back and refocus our advertising efforts
Marina Barreiro
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A few months ago I found myself sitting at New Video Frontiers, listening to my colleague Nick Henthorn’s participation at an industry panel, when a small but powerful realization hit me. As an industry, we've been so deep in the forest of data and metrics that we're losing sight of the bigger picture. Advertising is crucial for business success, but maybe we've been focusing too much on counting the trees and not enough on seeing the forest.

I first want to acknowledge that advertising is the lifeblood of business. It is the way in which brands connect with consumers and is the engine that drives growth and revenue. Without effective advertising mechanisms, businesses struggle to reach their target audience, build brand awareness, and ultimately drive sales. Effective advertising is more crucial than ever in today's crowded marketplace, where consumers are bombarded with messages from countless brands vying for their attention. In essence, advertising is the bridge that transforms brand aspirations into tangible business outcomes. Therefore, it’s no surprise that when the currency that the industry has built its technology and success on for the last 20-odd years is crumbling, we’re all a bit on edge.

How much has the cookie already crumbled?

But let’s take a deep breath because I'm here to tell you that the so-called "cookie apocalypse" isn't really an apocalypse at all. In fact, the largest part of the cookie apocalypse has already happened. The internet has already lost its identity fidelity on over 40% of the inventory. The scale of unauthenticated audiences is easily underestimated by our industry. When talking about programmatic, third-party cookies have been the silver bullet of identity. Yet, they only cover a small portion of one browser-based activity (Chrome only, as Safari, Edge, and Firefox, the three other largest web browsers, have already phased out cookies). While Chrome is the most widely used browser, it is still only used by 47% of internet users in the US*. Other IDs are also disappearing, since Apple’s ATT came into effect in 2021, media owners have experienced a 10-30% opt-in rate.

Diagram showing addressable and not addressable audiences with existing user IDs

So, when Google finally deprecates cookies in Chrome, it'll be more like the final call to a flight we’ve been waiting for. Now is the opportunity for the industry to reevaluate its priorities and refocus its advertising efforts on what truly matters.

The search for cookie alternatives

First things first, let's ditch the doom and gloom mentality. Yes, the era of cookies is ending, but that doesn't mean the end of targeted advertising - contrary to some industry chatter, contextual is not the only way forward. I will give contextual credit for being a simple solution that brands and media owners can transact on at scale and without having to invest much test-and-learn time and budget into it. Still, we shouldn’t just accept its targeting and measurement shortcomings. As an industry, we can strive to do better.

The position we’re in means we need to get creative to find new ways to reach and monetize our audiences without infringing on consumer privacy. At InfoSum, we’ve been supporting brands and media owners who are at the forefront of technology and have seen how privacy isn’t at odds with performance - in fact, privacy is driving innovations that are improving performance, maximizing relevance, and increasing value for brands and media owners alike. 

Here are two recent campaign case studies -  the first of which recently won the I-COM Data Creativity Award for ID Resolution, showcasing the powerful shift to first-party data.

Auto manufacturer Renault and German media owner Axel Springer created a simple yet powerful test campaign to benchmark the performance of first-party data lookalikes against traditional cookie targeting. They found that using the brand’s first-party data as a starting point increased the on-target delivery by 38%,  driving 18% higher conversions at a 15% lower cost. 

The other example is the Belgian publisher alliance, Ads and Data, who use InfoSum’s data clean room as the infrastructure to support their cross-channel campaigns and create innovative campaign structures. They created a two-wave campaign for beer brand Cristal that drove 2.5x incremental reach and 2.8x purchase intention by suppressing already exposed audiences across domains and channels. 

Take a look at our case studies to see other examples of thriving media environments and better campaign targeting that delivers on business outcomes.

Refocusing advertising on business objectives

My suggestion for our industry is that, instead of getting bogged down by the nitty-gritty details and metrics of the past, we zoom out and look at the bigger picture. What are we really trying to achieve with our advertising efforts? Hint: it's not just about racking up clicks and event tracking. It's about building customer relationships, fostering brand loyalty, and ultimately driving long-term business growth.

So, how do we do that? By focusing on our business objectives and using data in a way that's both effective and ethical. Gone are the days of blindly using every scrap of data we can get our hands on (regardless of quality…). It's time to be more selective and more intentional about the data we gather and license and how we use it. To paraphrase Dr. Malcolm in Jurassic Park, “Your [data] scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

And it bears repeating again – using data responsibly doesn't mean sacrificing performance. In fact, it's quite the opposite. By taking a more sustainable approach to data usage, we can actually improve our advertising ROI in the long run with high-quality data relationships as the base for better on-target segments, suppression, and measurement of true business outcomes.

The tools and technology you need to maximize both privacy and performance exist today. All it requires is a willingness to adapt to changing landscapes, a test-and-learn attitude, and the acceptance that at first, it won’t be a one-click solution. But doing something in response to an event that’s been named an ‘apocalypse’ is always going to be better than passively waiting for it to happen. By adopting a proactive approach, both processes and results will improve along the way. We must let go of our need for perfection and refocus our efforts on what truly matters – building meaningful connections with our audience and driving real business results.

Together, we can navigate the challenges of the post-cookie world and emerge stronger and more focused.

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