How To Own Data And Measure Performance In A Cookieless World 

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Scott Tieman, head of programmatic services, and Brad Herndon, managing director of personalization and marketing analytics, both at Accenture Interactive.

Despite the abundance of consumer data caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, third- and even some first-party cookies as well as the related tools marketers use for audience targeting and attribution are becoming obsolete as consumers prioritize privacy.

This shift will impact audience planning. Data management platforms (DMPs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs) typically leverage cookies to identify, group and target audiences — and to report on behaviors and conversions.

While marketers won’t have to give up tracking consumers and measuring the effectiveness of their campaigns, they must go about it differently.

Although it’s important for marketers to have data and measurement tools that demonstrate success, assessing effectiveness especially can be tricky, as it’s more complicated than a simple ROI measurement, especially in the age of COVID-19. Effectiveness and what it means can vary on so many factors, such as the life stage of a brand, its business context, and category.

So how can brands own data and measure performance in a cookieless world? Here are three key strategies:

Get a proprietary data set ready now

For the time being, we still have cookies, and there are ways to own and measure the data gathered with them in a privacy-compliant way. Now is an opportune time to prioritize first-party data and build ID graphs and other in-house data repositories that can be independently maintained. This can include demographic, behavioral, location-based, interest or response rate data which can be combined to form audiences and segments.

Here are a few ways marketers can do this:

  • Increase the volume of persistent IDs by encouraging site login through improved authenticated experiences or other consumer-oriented incentives.
  • Centralize customer and other owned first-party data (e.g., site data) into a holistic customer view, and establish a persistent cross-channel customer ID.
  • Enable data across all organizations and platforms for audience segmentation, targeting and measurement. Integrating mar tech and adtech pipes wherever possible will help with measurement and audience management.

Mobile ad IDs are also valuable tools that are tied to physical devices and power much of today’s mobile advertising. They are accurate and durable, but they may be next on the chopping block – Apple plans to restrict its IDFA in 2021 – as privacy regulations continue to tighten.

Partner with publishers who have first-party data

Many publishers have gathered significant data on the interests of subscribers who go beyond their paywalls. As third-party cookies meet their demise, publishers are making the most of this information and building fences around what has become their unique value proposition.

Publishers will flourish to the extent they generate rich, authenticated and proprietary data. However, advertisers should evaluate the composition of the publisher’s subscribers relative to their target audience to ensure there is a tight match.

One way to do this is to share some information about current customers to understand, match and identify potential look-alike audiences to target. Therefore, it’s important for both the publishers and the advertisers to have high quality first-party data to leverage.

Additionally, volumes and rates (i.e., authentication rates) are important. Data is only valuable when it’s current. With rapid changes in consumer preferences, including consumption, audience size, growth and interaction across content is critical for assessing value and relevance.

Advertisers can make the most of this through audience-based buying strategies including private marketplaces. In addition, data co-op partnerships present an opportunity for brands to make the most of direct relationships with publishers.

Publishers can offer powerful contextual targeting, which will grow in a post-cookie future. Brands can also tap into site-specific analytics that track user attributes and related campaign performance. Using publishers’ first-party data, brands may still be able to remarket, albeit at a significantly reduced scale.

There are some limitations. Frequency capping and management may have to rely on first-party publisher-owned cookies, and it may be difficult to cap frequency across publishers. Beyond that, dynamic creative optimization will have to depend on first-party ID graphs to serve dynamic creative.

Embrace new technologies

A number of new and existing technology platforms can help brands begin to move away from cookie reliance. Many ad tech companies are investing heavily in privacy-compliant, demographic-based IDs, which provide a persistent and mostly accurate view of a user.

Right now, ad tech players, such as LiveRamp and The Trade Desk, are coming together to share anonymized IDs through unified frameworks and co-ops. This strategy could be a more promising in the long term, but it’s still too early to judge their effectiveness. However, a large and growing pool of participants sharing IDs increases accuracy and match rates.

Also, remember that some tech companies provide and continue to evolve server-side data collection and distribution capabilities, preventing a reliance on browsers and, therefore, cookies.

Ultimately, new and more effective technologies will evolve. In the meantime, deploying existing ones described above, in conjunction with a proprietary data set and appropriate publishing partnerships, can help brands track consumers effectively, even after all the cookies are gone.

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