Don’t Wait For a Cookieless World: Here’s How to Act Now

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Cookies have been the crutch of the advertising industry for more than 20 years, and media strategies have long been built around third-party data, as it allows brands to refine targeting, drive personalization, and gain insight into consumer profiles. Yet privacy regulations are piling up, consumer awareness about privacy is growing, and Google has said it will kill cookies in 2023. This has sent the martech industry into a frenzy, creating a rise in task forces and new technologies in an effort to uncover alternative data solutions.

While Google’s delay in killing third-party cookies may seem like a sign to call off the forces and take a break from the rush to find a cookieless alternative, the reality is quite the opposite. Businesses need to act now or risk being left behind. Businesses can prepare for a cookieless future by focusing on the key problems driving privacy changes and exploring contextual targeting as an alternative to behavioral tracking.

The Big Picture of Privacy Changes

It is important for the industry as a whole to re-think their strategies and explore new ways of working. Regardless of Google’s reasoning for their delay, and whether or not more delays will follow, the martech industry needs to change. The goal remains the same: finding a way to effectively and ethically reach consumers at the right time, in the right place, without third-party cookies.

Brands need to be able to speak to their audiences where it matters most with personalized strategies and meaningful outcomes. While third-party cookies were long the foundation of digital marketing, they were never a perfect system and had fundamental flaws: inefficiency, poor data quality, a lack of industry standards, and minimal data protection for consumers, to name a few. 

As we move closer to a post-cookie world, brands need to see the change as an opportunity to think strategically about what is necessary for them to achieve their goals with compliant consumer data and consider a new programmatic landscape that requires an alternative foundation to the humble third-party cookie.

Context Can Pave the Way

There are numerous factors to be taken into consideration when moving into this new post-cookie era. First, brands need to lead with first-party data. First-party data (and its equally important sibling, zero-party data) is the richest form of data available, and will take center stage. But adding scale, and filling the shoes of the third-party cookie, is where things become a little more complex. Brands need to have access to insights that help them target the right consumers in the right place and time, and the solution to that problem lies in the world of advanced contextual.

Contextual targeting, used by many in the dawn of the internet, is a targeting method where advertising media is placed based on content and contextual relevance using linguistic elements. But what’s really interesting as we step into the new marketing era is that contextual targeting is witnessing a well-overdue makeover.

Advanced contextual solutions can leverage first-party data to correlate statistically significant patterns in content consumption, delivering in-the-moment marketing opportunities by analyzing content and data signals that align consumer receptivity with brand messaging. These data signals can include the context and sentiment of the web page or video, the brand suitability of all surrounding content, and custom domain-level scores including user experience, latency, misinformation, emotion, piracy, and others. 

Driving contextual performance will enable the ability to leverage data signals to continuously optimize toward a desired outcome. Adding and removing those signals which are over and underperforming — all the while collecting invaluable and untapped insights on contextual themes that resonate with the brand message — will be the key to success.

The Future of a Cookieless World

The path to blending first-party data strategies and contextual intelligence is going to be key for the post-cookie future. Seeing context as the new foundation of the programmatic landscape will enable advertisers to bring scale and rich consumer insights to their marketing and media strategies, which will essentially turn consumers into customers.

While the future of the digital advertising industry is going to change, what will remain the same are two things: the need for brands to be seen at the right place and time and a consumer’s desire for personalized content experiences. It’s time to make this change for the better, creating a world that adheres to less invasive and disruptive tactics that still deliver tangible results. 

Umberto Torrielli is Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer of Silverbullet.