Targeting in the Cookieless Future – What Marketers Need to Know

/ Thoughtspace - Strategy, Targeting

As the end of the third-party cookie nears, at the forefront of many marketers’ minds is the concern that approaches to audience targeting will soon be reversed by ten years and limit the sophistication of their data-focused strategies in a cookieless environment. While those who have solely relied on cookie-based audiences and retargeting audiences are going to need to overhaul their execution, many data technology partners have alternatives that will help bridge the gap with innovative solutions and, perhaps most importantly to the industry, this will require a necessary reset to marketers’ and brands’ overreliance on retargeting and vanity metrics.

ID-Based Solutions

In a cookieless environment, targeting solutions that are based on anonymized PII is going to be critical to maintain the one-to-one approach to reach consumers. Many of the upcoming ID-solutions will be interoperable, meaning they will speak to one another and create synergies for marketers. Below are a few of the most discussed solutions across the industry:

Unified ID 2.0

Many publishers and technology partners are working together to be able to produce Unified ID 2.0, which will be an open source solution built with hashed and encrypted email addresses across the web where a user has logged in. This solution, initially spearheaded by The Trade Desk and now being overseen by Prebid, has gotten significant backing by other publishers and brands. This includes, but isn’t limited to, Index Exchange, Magnite, PubMatic, OpenX, SpotX, LiveRamp, and The Washington PostFor consumers who are wanting to have more transparency about how their data is being used, they are going to be able to monitor and adjust how their data is being leveraged and encourage publishers to be more forthright in the value exchange that occurs. 

Liveramp Authenticated Traffic Solution

Similar to Unified ID 2.0, Liveramp is developing their own methodology to also get ahead of the cookieless future in collaboration with their partners. As outlined on Liveramp’s website, their “IdentityLink unlocks the value of your data securely because it’s encoded for every identity space, protecting your data from loss and misuse.” However, it does differ from the unified ID solution because it does not include identifiers such as fingerprinting and hashed emails. Instead they are creating an environment known as “Safe Haven,” which will aggregate many data providers’ information and enable for next-level machine learning to grow customer understanding and activate against new audiences. This will allow for fragmented data to be assimilated into a people-based solution based on identity across channels.

Lotame Panorama ID

Lotame’s solution is people-based and compliant, accumulating inputs across the web, mobile, connected TV, and customer data. This data can then be utilized across devices, domains and platforms universally across the open-web. As outlined in their press release, Lotame “…[matches] attributes across devices and domains to an individual…[leveraging] more than 90 platform partners, plus data from 180 providers in 58 countries.” This allows the ID to scale.

Neustar’s Fabrick ID

Neustar recently announced that they would also be rolling out an ID which aligns with the customer cloud solution that was released in the summer of 2020.  According to AdExchanger, “…Neustar has an API that publishers can call with the information they have on customers, most likely a hashed email or phone number. Neustar then spits out a token (the Fabrick ID), which publishers can use to share identity data back with Neustar’s advertiser clients and to sell their media programmatically on the open exchange.” Steve Silvers, the SVP of product and GM for customer experience at Neustar, informed AdExchanger that the ID is a more privacy compliant solution as compared to third-party cookies because it expires after 7 days.

First and Second-Party Data

First and second party data have been highly valuable for brands for a long time. Targeting these audiences allows for more touchpoints with known prospects, the ability to continue touchpoints beyond email with past customers, an opportunity to upsell with other relevant products, and the luxury of using other companies’ powerful audiences in your targeting. While historically important, this data is expected to be essential to establishing a well-rounded digital strategy in a post-cookie environment. The companies that are poised for success here have been building deterministic identity graphs for years not only based on logins and emails, but also devices, purchase information and phone numbers.

The Benefits of Walled Gardens’ Second Party Data

While there has historically been some frustration across marketing professionals on the siloed effect of walled gardens, marketers are beginning to change their tune after realizing limitations that they will be confronted with once the deprecation of the third-party cookie is in full-swing. The great thing about these providers is that nearly everyone on each platform is signed in, meaning that there is inherently an ID present without the need of cookies. Now that doesn’t mean there will at least be some impact on scale with data transparency really coming to the forefront in 2021, but there will still be an opportunity to reach deterministic audiences based on their behaviors. Coegi will have a follow-up piece all dedicated to walled gardens – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Interest-Based Audiences

Some partners, like Google, are turning to behavioral tagging to generate audiences. This is basically works by giving users interest labels and sharing them with advertisers as the user visits the site. These labels or tags are determined based on recent browsing history and eliminates any IDs associated with the targeting, which provides more privacy while also allowing marketers to ensure they are able to provide relevant content to their consumers.

Advanced Contextual Targeting

Contextual-based targeting centered around keywords has been implemented across programmatic campaigns for years to expand prospecting pools and assume relevancy. While this seems overly simplistic given the granularity of other targeting options, it actually offers a great opportunity to reach those whom you might have not otherwise considered to be part of your target audience and also expand reach through cost-effective CPMs. Furthermore, contextual targeting has come a long way since the early 2010s, and many data providers now offer unique solutions based on real-time data and artificial intelligence that elevates the sophistication even further and allows for greater personalization in marketing.

One such solution is offered by Peer39, a highly regarded contextual data marketplace, who recently partnered with multiple data providers including Newsguard, Hotspex Media, and Planalytics. They are now rolling out a solution that allows for contextual targeting layered with weather triggering events, known as the product demand index, which takes into account environmental factors and dynamics weather conditions in the location that the user is. Beyond this, they also allow marketers to select contextual placements based on credibility and brand sensitivity of the webpage, overall emotional sentiment, and predictive trending targeting based on topics that are relevant to the brand.

Another respected contextual data partner, Oracle (who bought Grapeshot back in 2018), also offers a contextual intelligence opportunity. By using sets of keywords and phrases, Oracle Grapeshot is able to understand relevancy of the page for the category of content and subsequent strength of the category match. This approach allows contextual targeting to be evaluated on a broad versus niche basis, offering a variety of options for brands to tap into. 

Semasio also has a keyword-based contextual option that identifies webpages’ most significant terms and phrases and categorizes accordingly, inferring meaning and relevance. However, one of its more interesting solutions is the seed-based audience. This approach takes key customers or contacts from a CRM, analyzes what semantically differentiates this audience from the broader population, and produces a lookalike model of sorts based on contextual engagement. 

These elevated approaches open up new opportunities for marketers to intelligently lean into contextual.

What It All Means

As a whole, marketers and brands are going to have to tap into creative solutions to tap into audiences they have been targeting. While it will be time consuming to build up the repertoire needed, it is ultimately a safer direction to protect consumers and build trust.

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