By R. Larsson, Advertising Week
After last year’s whirlwind regulatory advances, this Data Privacy Day carries a strong sense of positive, and accelerated, change. With no fewer than seven US states passing privacy laws, new terms agreed for transatlantic data flow, and European officials launching the first legal framework for AI, 2023 brought major global reinforcement of user data protection. In ad land, however, balancing multiplying rules with the need to deliver engaging messages is getting harder — especially as more technology players add their own restrictions.
Amid the loss of third-party cookies and rising consumer concern about online data usage, the industry faces an urgent need to evolve long-entrenched processes. But what does that look like, and where should they focus first?
We’ve gathered insights from leading consultancies, media experts, and vendors around the key trends they feel should top the agenda for 2024, as well as their recommendations for driving effective and privacy-secure ad targeting, tracking, and optimisation.
Cookie execution means adaptation is now non-negotiable
“With Google already cutting off cookies for over 30 million Chrome users, the shift towards a more privacy-secure internet is well underway. Having had four years warning, advertisers should be ready for this event and solutions are already abundant. While this signals a big shift in digital advertising, the truth is no one should be afraid of the death of third-party trackers.
There are many tried and tested measurement, optimisation, and targeting solutions available that continue to drive ROI with no drop-off when compared to cookies – and in some cases these are more effective..”
“Data Privacy Day underlines the growing importance of cookieless targeting solutions for advertisers, and consumers. Advertisers that are testing these innovations now will be ahead of the curve once privacy-centric advertising becomes the new normal — and reap benefits exclusive to cookieless targeting.
“By leveraging cookieless targeting solutions that focus on first-party data and contextual relevance, brands can increasingly reach specific audience segments with more precision and impact; garnering higher-quality attention and elevating ROI while accommodating consumers that want to be in control of their data, and aligning with privacy regulations.”
“With research showing that cookies still underpin nearly 80% of programmatic ad purchases in the US, there is a critical question about whether the industry is adequately prepared for this transformation. Today is an opportunity for the industry to discuss the new paradigm that harmonizes commercial interests with individual privacy.
Brands – recognising the need for a comprehensive understanding of audiences in this new world – are turning to contextual insights to fuel strategy and find the right opportunities to engage their customers; all without relying on a single byte of personally identifiable information. Only by rebuilding trust with consumers can we protect ad-funded media, and the virtual free access to information, education, and art that it provides.”
Lauren Wetzel, COO, InfoSum
“With so many organizations pushing their privacy credentials, those that are merely paying lip service will be quickly exposed. Research shows that more people than ever are exercising their Data Subject Access Rights and turning their backs on businesses that don’t have adequate data practices and policies.
Any organization that makes claims about how ‘privacy-centric’ or ‘privacy-first’ it is must put words into practice. .Businesses should be upfront with customers about what data they collect and why, but, the best way to protect this data is to never share it. While legacy marketing practices involved passing customer data between multiple parties, brands are beginning to tap into the potential of first-party data strategies and trusted collaborations with media partners that don’t expose any consumer data. Those businesses that can hone and perfect these strategies will demonstrate that they walk the walk when it comes to privacy.”
Removing barriers to data scalability is vital for future-proof advertising
“Brands must be prepared to focus on what they can achieve with first-party data. With the right approach, it is possible to develop future-proofed, personalized marketing strategies around fully-consented customer data.
Consumers are not only demanding that brands be more respectful with their data, they also want brands to meet them wherever they are with more seamless, tailored interactions. New patterns of consumer behavior have developed, with platforms such as TikTok driving expectations that all content should be shoppable.
“To correspond with this always-shopping mindset, brands must create more sophisticated advertising experiences that encompass the whole of the sales funnel, from consideration to conversion. These experiences should also help marketers uncover real-time insights about consumer preferences that allow them to craft bespoke customer journeys while fully respecting privacy.”
“Attention must shift to harnessing other methods of driving efficient targeting and trading. Moving to alternative identifiers is an obvious first step, and one that many publishers are already taking, according to our recent traffic analysis. But, as identifier fragmentation grows, greater adoption of universal identifiers and platforms that allow flexible ID use will be essential for both media buyers and sellers.
Similarly, finding ways to bolster addressability is vital. In addition to wider use of seller-defined cohorts and contextual solutions, there is a need to explore the potential for data clean rooms, which enable secure insight aggregation across environments, including open web sites and retail media networks – without data leakage.
The end of cookies presents an opportunity to enter a fresh, privacy-first era – let’s not waste this chance to drive industry progress.”
As AI opinions diverge, how can we leverage smart tools safely?
“With AI now mainstream, it’s crucial that we make progress on establishing ethical management. Reaping the rewards of AI’s potential while navigating a minefield of potential harms requires guidelines to root out biases, protect privacy, and ensure transparency. Ethical AI fosters trust, which will be hard won after years of digital platforms being far too comfortable getting “hands-on” with personal data.
Data ethics are tied closely to AI ethics, and we must resolve growing concerns around data privacy before going all-in on AI, or risk building new infrastructure on shaky foundations. Expect to see a continued shift towards first and zero-party data collection, where informed consent around its collection and use — including machine learning models and training data — can be established and maintained. The tech world cannot afford to take its usual “move fast and break things” approach when it comes to AI.”
“Despite all the buzz around AI, there is still too little focus on its privacy-preserving power. In the advertising field, smart creative optimization tools have been using non-personal data to improve ad quality and performance for years — with generative AI enabling larger scale and more cost-effective production.
The industry must explore the scope that these AI solutions offer to build effective ads by harnessing the most engaging creative elements, and efficiently aligning with key channel best practices. There is plenty of potential for AI-driven creative to maximize ad relevance and ROI without conventional identifiers, but it needs to be more widely recognized and leveraged.”
” It’s fitting that this year’s theme for Data Privacy Week is ‘Take Control of Your Data’. With cookies gone, AI will play a crucial role in developing a privacy fix for consumers and advertisers. We’ll see AI audience modelling work with user-supplied, first-party data so that consumers retain maximum privacy while advertisers and marketers can target them with the most relevant ads.
As we enter a year of major political and sporting events like the US and UK elections, the Olympics and the Euros, AI has the ability to help businesses solve targeting issues while protecting users’ data. The innovative application of AI in solutions to measure real-time voter sentiment can empower brands to identify hyper-targeted audience segments and allocate the right budgets to campaigns for maximum impact.”
Walking the tightrope between ensuring rigorous data management and providing relevant, insight-fuelled experiences isn’t easy. Yet the industry keeps innovating and evolving — not just due to a fear of legislative penalties, but also because it’s committed to retaining vital consumer favor. In 2024, greater exploration of privacy-preserving tools and post-cookie alternatives will help set advertisers, brands, publishers, and audiences on the right path to developing an online environment that works for everyone, regulators included.