Tony Miller, WW: "Own your own data"

With 2023 coming closer, companies need to prepare for the post-cookie era. Even with the delayed deprecation of third-party cookies, now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand. 

In the eighth episode of our Identity Architects podcast our Enterprise Sales Executive Kate Blaxill sat down with Tony Miller, VP Growth & Performance Marketing at WW, to discuss the cookieless future, how data can improve the customer experience, brand collaborations, and more.

Tony is optimistic and, in his opinion, even though there are those out there that have a tendency to procrastinate, we are all fast and furiously finding ways to collaborate on a solution. There is still a lot of noise on the topic - and rightly so.

“Honestly, I do think brands and the people I talk to [...] are all trying to get ahead of the game because we have to; in order to be ready. I am sure there's a few of those out there burying their heads in the sand but I think that's probably more down to resource and money rather than for want of trying.”

And how is WW preparing for the first-party data era? 

“We're building up our first-party data so we own the direct relationship. [...] We're collaborating with partners and figuring out quickly how we’ll be ready when the time comes for third-party cookies to be no longer.”

WW is doing all they can to prepare. But what does the cookieless future look like? Will there be one solution for all or are we maybe looking at a hybrid approach?

“There are a million answers to the cookieless future and everyone is clamoring to have the solution. It’s a complex maze actually that continues to be a bit ambiguous at present. We won't end up with one single solution that solves everything. But I’m sure there’ll be people out there trying to come up with a new universal identifier.”

Tony believes we will end up with a hybrid approach and even though there are companies trying to replace the third-party cookie, this would create the same challenges all over again. 

“As marketers, we will have to understand how each and every one of these solutions will work for us to best determine how we can continue to reach the right audiences across all platforms – obviously with the right content at the right time. It will be more work and investment for brands to get this right, but we have to.”

That said, with only a year or so left to prepare, what are the things every brand should do?

For Tony, it is three things. First, a strong first-party data strategy:

“At the end of the day, we can't rely on cookies or any kind of a replacement. Own your own data as much as you can. Whether it's through lead gen, pop-ups at your site to capture email addresses; start building up your own pool of engaged and opt-in customers ready to talk to.”

Second, investment in resources whether it’s headcount or technologies to bring it in-house. 

“The more you have the knowledge internally the more you can control your own destiny through this complex and convoluted maze.”

And third, brand collaborations, to work with like-minded brands and have a natural connection, reaching out to your collective audiences together.

“It’s a natural way to reach and grow your audiences as long as the collaborations make sense and they naturally fit together. [...] Brands and media owners need to be more open about it, ultimately it’s about building transparency and trust at the beginning of the relationships [...] and finding a win-win for both parties and an equal seat at that table because you both are invested in it, you both want the same thing out of it. So it's better to come to the table with that openness around your overall and end goal so that you can get there together.”

The concept of Identity Architects is to get to know the innovators within our industry, the people who continuously challenge the status quo who believe that there is a better way to use customer data to deliver rich experiences to consumers. So we wanted to hear from Tony, what is the most unique thing he’s seen from a brand in relation to utilizing a customer’s data. 

As he sits on the board of the DMA and chairs the awards committee, he says that through that lens he can see a lot of great work the industry is producing using data creatively, strategically, and uniquely. 

“One, in particular, stands out and that is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Their whole premise was, as most organizations and brands found as lockdown persisted, that gatherings shrunk. Their memorials were either limited or canceled. And they rely on those to really help generate funds and awareness for them from their donors but also trying to get new people to join. So they decided to bring the memorials home to people, for the people to connect with their past while at home.”

They used an element of Google street view to show where men and women commemorated by the Commonwealth lived, with a click-through to show more information. They also sent letters home to the occupants of 24 street across the UK written by the former occupants who passed away in the war so people living there now received a letter from the person who had lived in that house telling stories of life overseas during the war whilst encouraging people to learn more about their lives through the work the organization did. For anyone interested in this campaign, you can read more about it on the DMA website as their campaign won Silver in Best Data Storytelling last year.

“An interesting way for a small charity to think on its feet and really intelligently about not just their own data but data at their disposal to actually find new people to talk to going forward.”

It is always wonderful to see what data can power when used in the right way.

Thanks, Tony Miller, for the chat.