online privacy

Do Targeted Digital Ads and Privacy Mix?

Concerns about privacy are pervasive in predictions about digital advertising in 2021. The demise of third-party cookies, the passage of a more stringent California state privacy law, and the specter of future legislation in other states or at the national level are driving the topic’s popularity.

I checked in with Philip Smolin, Chief Strategy Officer at ad platform Amobee, to get his take on if and how advertisers can adapt to rising privacy standards while maintaining sustainable business models.

How will privacy regulations and corporate standards (e.g., Apple’s) expand next year?

In 2021, the advertising landscape will evolve in ways we’ve never seen before. We have Apple crippling IDFA, Google Chrome phasing out third-party cookies, and CCPA compliance hurdles increasing with the passing of California Prop 24. This means all of the major players will need to incorporate industry-wide initiatives that diversify identity graphs, integrate panel-based measurement solutions, and accelerate first-party data with consumer opt-in. There won’t be a single holistic solution, but the alternatives that rise from the Cookie-pocalypse must put privacy first to survive 2021 and beyond.

Are privacy and targeted advertising necessarily at odds?

No, but it requires a change in thinking. For the last 20 years, the digital ad industry has been built on using cookies for tracking. Simply “replacing the cookie” won’t work in the privacy-focused world. As such, advertising and targeting must embrace consumer privacy needs — and if they cross the line, they’ll face potentially dire consequences.

However, marketers CAN achieve targeted advertising without crossing that line. We’re implementing solutions that put the consumer first and don’t give off the feeling of being “watched” or “tracked” and instead cultivate a transparent and honest conversation between consumers and brands.

How do marketers understand the identities of their consumers while respecting privacy?

To respect consumer privacy in the post-cookie world, marketers should simply be pro-consumer. In 2021, marketers should ensure they’re building their databases with opt-in permissions in the forefront, engaging in conversations with consumers thoughtfully, and creating an overall better experience to incentivize opt-in participation.

Where opt-in has not been secured, alternative strategies like cohort or panel-based measurement will provide slightly reduced trackability while maintaining privacy compliance.

What tactics and technologies should marketers invest in to succeed in the privacy-first future?

As there won’t be one holy grail to solve for privacy issues in the future, marketers will need to incorporate multiple measurement and targeting tactics into their business. For example, building capabilities for contextual targeting and panel-based measurement that don’t require user-level opt-in will be key for marketers.

Capabilities like these shine in the world of connected TV, as it’s an inherently cookie-free platform. Marketers should be working with their partners now to be ready for 2021 — and solutions that fundamentally reduce reliance on cookies and mobile advertising IDs will get them there.

Regardless of what replaces the cookie, it’s time that ad tech truly thinks differently about the direction of the industry with regard to identity and personalization and embraces new technologies, instead of relying on ones that are decades old and only built for the browser-based world.

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He joined Street Fight as a contributing writer in 2015, has compiled the daily newsletter since 2016, and has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Shoot him an email at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.