Nola Solomon, Criteo: “Uniting for a stronger future”

“Uniting for a stronger future”

We’ve been discussing the cookieless future for so long now that it’s easy to forget it’s already here. Cookie depreciation is just one of the many challenges organizations face - they’ve also had to navigate an increasingly fragmented media landscape and global privacy legislation. Nonetheless, it is an essential step towards a better future - not just for the industry but also for consumers. Because what we tend to forget is that we are also consumers.

In the latest episode of our Identity Architects podcast, InfoSum's COO, Lauren Wetzel, sat down with Nola Solomon, SVP, Go‑To‑Market, at Criteo, to discuss privacy, retail media, AI, and more.

“I think fundamentally cookie deprecation doesn't mean that we lose the balance between campaign performance and customer centricity to drive those positive results in a privacy-safe manner. I think strategies like contextual targeting, first-party data utilization, can help solve these issues, along with transparent communication and consent-based marketing which is really important. So the goal really, in my mind, is to understand and respect individual preferences while delivering impactful campaigns.”

One solution that’s been discussed non-stop is Google’s Privacy Sandbox, which we discussed in an earlier episode with Alex Cone, Privacy Sandbox Product Manager at Google.

“I think that there's still a lot of confusion about what's being tested, what it means for our industry out there. And I really think the bottom line is that the tests that are ongoing right now are about [...] helping us figure out what are the tweaks and improvements that need to be made for it to work seamlessly. Fundamentally the industry is shifting from thinking about how they conduct A/B testing experiments in this ecosystem [...]. Obviously, it's a big change, and that can lead to a lot of confusion and anxiety. But I think that companies that are investing in the Privacy Sandbox [...] are going to be thinking about how do they maintain that effective targeting and access to that valuable data for optimization while they're prioritizing user privacy and trust to ensure that we, as an industry, holistically are having a healthy and independent media ecosystem and staying aligned with the industry trends as they will continue to evolve.”

We are in the final stages of cookie deprecation, a massive change looming over the industry for the past few years. While some organizations got ahead of this change and are now well-prepared, others are just getting started. 

“2024 is a year of learning and transition for the industry. [...] I am very confident that in the coming year. We're going to see a lot of unparalleled innovation and collaboration in the advertising ecosystem. I think Privacy Sandbox already sort of exemplifies this, with a lot of competitors coming together and uniting for a stronger future. [...] But we've really transcended, I think, an era of sole reliance on third-party cookies for addressable interactions, and we're entering this era of a plethora of options where Privacy Sandbox is just one single avenue.”

It’s so true - there are so many options right now, but there is no silver bullet. It’s about finding the right mix, and having a holistic strategy tailored to the organization’s objectives while keeping consumer privacy front and center. When it comes to personalized advertising, addressability plays an important role.

“You have to identify what the challenges are for advertisers, for brands, and agencies in this ecosystem right now. So firstly, consumers want to be in control of their own personal data. Secondly, regulators are formalizing consumer demands for this control. Marketers and media owners therefore are having to think about how their businesses are threatened and needing to grow at the same time. So how do they bridge between that and the personalization gap that's being created with some of the signal loss? [...] It's about all the different pathways that we can bring together to tell that addressability story. [...] So having a holistic strategy and a multipronged approach, which is the approach Criteo has taken, will help tackle that personalization gap while ensuring that there's relevant privacy safe advertising.”

It’s always great to hear that organizations prioritize the customer because the consumer is a crucial part of this ecosystem. Even if the consumer sometimes takes a backseat in conversations about addressability, it doesn’t mean they should be an afterthought. Trust and transparency are the foundations for success in today’s privacy-first world. 

“I think that businesses really need to focus on transparency. And that's going to take a few different forms depending on what type of business you have and and what kind of interaction you have with your consumers. Ethical advertising is really important here. Thinking about always top-of-mind privacy protection for your users as well as their user experience and making sure that you're considerate of what their desires are to engage with you as a brand or as a publisher, whatever that touch point is. So things like continuously testing the Privacy Sandbox or alternative methods of activating addressable so privacy-safe advertising is really critical to build that trust between consumers and the brands or publishers.”

Absolutely. Over the last few years, we’ve not only seen and discussed cookie deprecation at length but also seen retail media evolve into a hot topic and dominate headlines.

“Retail media is the number one secular growth trend in digital advertising, and I think this growth is only going to continue to boom. We saw that it represents about $42 billion market opportunity which is massive. And retailers are starting to realize that they can use retail media to monetize both their inventory and their data and this is a growing trend. In terms of helping them shore up their businesses in light of these macroeconomic challenges, we're all facing, and they are able to do that across both digital channels and the physical worlds. So I'm very excited about the future of retail media.”

It really is exciting to see. But as with all new trends, there are challenges as well. 

“The number one hurdle right now for retail media success, like being super successful, is fragmentation, which Forrester I think did a study that says about 20% of revenue loss across retail media is due to fragmentation challenges. So while there is a lot of progress that's happening, it's clear that there is a need for collective collaboration across the entire industry to unleash the full potential of retail media and ultimately also the broader umbrella of commerce media.”

2024 is a year of change for our industry, to say the least, and that can involve challenging times. As we embark on this journey of change together, it’s worth remembering the wisdom Nola shared with us as we wrapped up the conversation.

“Remembering that change is uncomfortable and leads to growth. We're in that moment right now as an industry, so rest easier than you might otherwise without that in mind.”

Well said. Change is always hard, but it will be worth it in the end. 

Thanks, Nola, for the chat!