B2B, Hold the Cookie

By Dwight Gorall, founder and CEO of NetWise

The industry is upset these days. We’re facing a perfect storm: Google is putting third-party cookies out to pasture and it won’t provide alternate user-level identifiers, and Apple just made IDFAs opt-in, all while new regulation looms. Regardless of the outcome, the way we think about identifying our audiences and reaching them is changing.

Many marketers are understandably freaking out. But, like it or not, the time for industry-accepted (and legal) means of opt-in digital targeting is nigh. With the end of cookies and identity as we know it, our industry could veer in a few different directions. Of course, a lot remains to be seen, but in uncertain times it’s best to prepare.

While B2B marketers might not be as panicked as their B2C counterparts, they will be affected. B2B marketers need to develop strategies to handle a number of potential scenarios in the near future. Here’s a look at a few of those outcomes with an eye for how B2B marketers should prepare.

Control Goes Back to Publishers – Forge new relationships

Once upon a time, publishers had sales teams that worked with advertisers directly. But the real-time bidding and programmatic ecosystem largely up-ended that. It became incredibly cheap to reach consumers at scale without those relationships. The programmatic system depended on cookies. If there were to be a draconian move away from that, the pendulum could swing from the efficiencies of an RTB ecosystem and much of that control could shift back to publishers and platforms.

The platforms are walled-gardens, they’ll be fine. Big publishers might be okay, but every publisher will need to establish 1:1 relationships with their advertisers. The pendulum swing will affect small publishers the most, who will need to set up new systems to support selling directly to brands and will need to grapple with capturing data on consumers in order to monetize.

For marketers, this will increase the importance of multi-channel reach. The same way that publishers will need to establish 1:1 relationships with advertisers, marketers will need to pay closer attention to the publishers who reach their target audience. That list of possible publishers for your ads, as well as the relationships within, will be even more important to maintain.

The Industry Embraces a New Identifier – Know your segments

There’s no shortage of companies looking to step up with solutions. Who knows whether one will actually fill the void? But let’s suppose that marketers and publishers actually decide collectively to adopt something like The Trade Desk’s UID 2.0. (a system in which an individual would be connected to an anonymous ID based on an email address). This would allow businesses to continue to reach their audience of decision-makers. The standard would satisfy regulators and life can continue the way it has, just with a new anonymous identifier.

In this scenario, things wouldn’t be drastically different for marketers, but there will be new opportunities, which means new segments. A more open data solution will create more competition among all players. Marketers: now is the time to start thinking about how you segment and target your audience based on these shifts. Which publishers do your segments align with? What first-party data will they have?

The Hybrid Future – Stay organized

Some combination of the above could also unfold. If the industry doesn’t firmly commit to UID 2.0 (or some other anonymized ID), a patchwork of different options will emerge. This is the hybrid future. It will result in a great increase in complexity and possibly confusion, which will then drive the call for regulation.

For marketers, there will be many more moving parts. This will only increase the importance of staying organized around the data and relationships that matter. Marketers need to know their publishers and know their segments across channels.

The reality is that advertising and the associated data aren’t going anywhere. The web works because publishers know who is consuming their content, and marketers get a stream of data back on how their campaigns are doing. We are in the midst of a sort of spring cleaning of how we deal with this data. Things are going to change in our industry and ideally, it will drive innovation and ultimately growth. Now is the time for publishers to cooperate to reduce complexity, and for marketers to rethink their playbook along the lines above.

Dwight founded NetWise in 2011 and serves as the company’s CEO. Prior to launching NetWise, Dwight held executive-level positions at LexisNexis Risk Solutions/Seisint, Daleen Technologies, Motorola and AT&T. Dwight has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida.