Consulting Insights

Why We Embrace the Cookie Apocalypse

Last week, Google announced that they plan to stop selling ads based on unique browsing history by next year. This news, in addition to other recent statements that Google will phase out third-party cookies, has fueled heated conversations throughout the industry. Read Ovative’s point of view on how marketers should plan for these changes. 

We’ve been actively monitoring news about the forthcoming death of the cookie and its ramifications on the digital marketing industry. While the changes ahead can feel scary, we’re excited for what they mean for our industry and society. Here are three reasons we’re ready to embrace the ‘cookie apocalypse’, and what we think it means for marketing and measurement going forward.

Reason 1: Evolving Marketers From Sycophants to Substantive Brand Builders

As the industry prioritizes privacy considerations, brands can refocus on the value they have to offer consumers. The reduced ability to tell each individual consumer specifically what they want to hear will prompt smart organizations to reexamine their identity and underlying values to show the marketplace exactly who they are and what they stand for.

Reason 2: Aligning Measurement and Targeting Capabilities with Reality

Historically, marketers wanted measurement to provide valuable data at individual-level granularity, but marketing tools couldn’t guarantee the ability to deliver at that level. This sent analytics teams on a wild goose chase for “perfect” measurement, and set up evaluations that weren’t rooted in the reality of what activation was possible. Even in channels like email where clients can segment really accurately, it’s challenging for marketers to create messages that are perfectly customized and timed to the client. These changes can liberate marketers and measurement experts from the pursuit of perfect and allow them to refocus on the useful and possible.

Reason 3: Empowering Consumers To Engage The Way They Want To

Personalization has been the goal for so long that many marketers have forgotten to consider the risks of consumer burnout and skepticism towards advertising. Hyper-targeting drives increased effectiveness, but consumers have shifted to an attitude of cynicism. How many times have you heard someone suggest that their phone is listening to them? The lack of perceived authenticity and the increased awareness from consumers about the use of their data to influence them can cause irreparable harm to our profession. Once consumers have more control of their information and the ability to engage with brands on their own terms, we believe there is a future where effectiveness need not drop as precision targeting regresses.

What Actions Should Marketers Take?

For Digital Marketers: These shifts all have an impact on advertising effectiveness, squeezing returns and therefore budgets and investment. Marketers can compensate for these effectiveness declines with these tips:

  • Get Back to Basics
    • Understand your brand identity, purpose and value to the consumer and positively communicate that to the market that inspires authentic engagement
  • Display and Paid Social
    1. Ensure you are talking directly to publishers, whether IO-based or private programmatic channels given the focus on first-party data.
    2. Assess (and reassess) tools to enable content-first targeting. It will be critical to be able to target content contextually and measure alignment of target audiences on specific media partners and portfolios.
  • Paid Search
    1. Leverage first-party data, similar audience segments to first-party data, and Google audiences to activate against.
    2. Measure performance of different audience segments and invest in improving audience data sets.

For Measurement: It’s exciting to envision a perfectly trackable consumer and the attribution of their purchase behavior back to specific channels, but that world has never existed and now, probably, never will. Measurement needs to align with budgeting and planning processes to ensure that investment is happening in the right places and at the right time. That means several things:

  • Use top-down planning tools (like MMM) to provide holistic planning guidance, rather than pursuing a bottom-up planning Nirvana.
  • Build an understanding of upper funnel and brand-building investment returns, especially as brand identity grows in importance.
  • Focus on reach as well as engagement.
  • Evaluate the quality of advertising itself, not just the quality of the plan.

The advertising industry existed long before cookies ever came around, so it’s not that we don’t know what to. Marketers just need to figure out how to marry historical philosophies with a new age of capabilities and consumer engagement. That challenge is a big one, but also immensely exciting.

1 | Google Ads & Commerce, Charting a course towards a more privacy-first web, March 2021

Kate Bante

Senior Director, Strategy Consulting

About the Author

Kate is a Senior Director of Strategy Consulting at Ovative. Kate is responsible for partnering with C-suite executives to develop strategies to accelerate enterprise growth through marketing and measurement. As a leader in the Consulting practice, Kate has helped drive Ovative’s approach to customer segmentation as well as customer-centric marketing, media, and measurement strategies. Before joining Ovative in 2017,... Read More >>

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