Digital advertising has become such a fundamental component of 21st century marketing strategies that the news last year of the impending expiry of third-party tracking sent shockwaves through companies large and small. The challenge for marketers now is whether to wait for these changes to take effect or get prepared now. As the clock slowly ticks to the end of Google’s two-year grace period, many find themselves doing more waiting than preparing.
Here are three ways a forward-thinking and data-driven marketer can be prepared to hit the ground running when the transition away from third-party tracking is finally complete.
1. Take advantage of the time you were given.
Marketers customarily have to work within constricted timeframes and adapt strategies to cultural shifts. This is not one of those times. Ample notice has been given to discover (or recover) alternative strategies, implement, and test them.
In Ad Age’s reporting on “How Facebook and Snapchat are Preparing Brands for the Data Lockdowns,” they aptly remind marketers that “there is one benefit to relying less on data… brands will have to return to focusing on the design of their ads” (Ad Age, 2021). As targeting becomes less effective, marketers will have to get more clever with ad creative to reach their intended audiences.
One way to use this time wisely is to leverage pre-market creative measurement tools. A study by Nielsen showed that campaigns lacking precise targeting relied on the strength of their creative 18% more than targeted ads, contributing to 59% of the ad’s overall effectiveness (Nielsen, 2017). In other words, a lack of precise targeting doesn’t necessarily equate to ineffective advertising because creative can pick up the slack. Marketers can use this period before third-party tracking is completely lost to measure the financial impact of advertising creative on their business and redistribute spend accordingly. Pre-market creative testing should be considered a crucial part of the updated plan.
Creative testing can also help fill the void of tracking data while a campaign is in-market. With constantly evolving world events, the creative process should be constantly in motion, especially when working through channels where production costs are lower, like audio and email marketing.
2. Turn to trusted channels with rich contextual targeting.
Effective advertising pre-dates cookie-based audience targeting. For decades, marketers looked to content as a proxy for audience, and achieved real results with this contextual approach. In the wake of new restrictions to third-party tracking methods like cookies and mobile ad IDs, contextual is having another moment. This has marketers reconsidering their overall media mix, and channels that offer targeting based on a detailed and data-driven understanding of content are rising to the top. Podcasts are leading that charge.
Since its inception, podcasting has been a notoriously hard channel for audience targeting and measurement, but this hasn’t stopped flocks of performance-oriented DTC brands from getting great results from the channel. Moreover, podcasting has developed in a digital environment where cookies and MAIDs were never sure bets. Apple, the largest distributor of podcasts, is known for its closed-lip policies on data and has pushed the industry in this direction since early days. For a long time, marketers considered this a weakness, but the podcast channel’s lack of reliance on these identifiers is now a strategic advantage.
Personalization is innate to podcasting in a way that makes the loss of cookies less of a disadvantage. For one, the content is often highly specific and maps directly against audience segments. Listening to podcasts about infant care? You’re most likely in the market for diapers. The content is also iterative and consistent; even without tracking the listener, it can be assumed that they will be back in the same place tomorrow, next week, or whenever the next episode is out. Podcast advertising serves as one example of myriad alternatives to how marketers can still find their target audiences, but in a way that is sustainable in a world where consumer privacy is becoming even more prominent.
3. Don’t be surprised if this isn’t the last shake-up.
It’s hard to say how far down the road of customer privacy we will go. Will it end with third-party tracking? Is first-party next? Evidence seems to show that this is just the beginning. It’s hard to imagine an open web without data and analytics, but just because it is unimaginable to most doesn’t mean it’s impossible (ahem, global pandemic).
With the shifting culture towards higher expectations for corporate transparency and more respect for customer privacy, marketers should be prepared for more tightening of their data privileges. This could come again from big tech, or from the government, which has thus far played a minimal role in online consumer protections, especially in the United States. If what was nearly the end of Google in Australia is any indication of the road ahead, marketers should adjust their strategies sooner rather than later.
Living through a global pandemic has taught us to be prepared for the expected and unexpected. By investing in strategies that aren’t so reliant on soon-to-be-extinct data, marketers will be prepared for the changes ahead. They may even make better ads because of it.
To learn more about pre-market creative measurement, contact us.