Google Proves that Travel Marketers Need a New Targeting Strategy

By Nikolai Scholz, Director of Product Management, ADARA

Travel marketers might read the news about Google Chrome deciding to push their phase-out of third-party cookies by nearly two years with a sense of relief. That timing means that the industry is now looking at flipping the switch from mid-2023 to late 2023, both far but also relatively close to Chrome’s initial goal of the “beginning of 2022”. With travel surging back, it’s nice to know that targeting will still be available as we know it for some time. It allows for a better transition and a timeline that provides breathing room as well as education for the move away from third-party cookies in the future.

This newfound breathing room is an opportunity to create a robust post-cookie strategy, rather than a reactive approach based on a short timeline. Now is not the time to be complacent and “wait and see.” We’ve experienced the reality first hand for the past two years – Google is not likely to be the savior in this situation. Rather, marketers need to create a first-party data program and forge new partnerships to move away from heavy reliance on Google and third-party cookies.

Google Feels Your Pain

Google Chrome has certainly experienced frustrations in its attempt to rid its browser of third-party cookie tracking. Chrome is part of Google, which makes money from ads that use third-party cookies, and so they need a viable technology replacement in order to keep revenue flowing and ensure that the rest of the advertising world can continue to work with them.

 

So far, no clear replacement from Google is in sight. Google’s various “privacy sandbox” announcements had been vague and filled with concern. Their “FLOC” segments were under scrutiny for both privacy and antitrust problems, for example. Another hurdle was presented in investigations coming from the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Google’s eventual commitment to it. As the biggest browser in most of the world, and a holdout user of third-party cookies, all eyes are on Google to navigate a way through.

These hurdles have caused many in the industry to raise their eyebrows and shrug – Google is simply getting a taste of their own medicine and experiencing similar difficulties that marketers everywhere are faced with as they move away from cookies. Google plans to review “more than 30” proposals that would cover “ad measurement, delivering relevant ads and content, and fraud detection”. Once reviewed and subject to the CMA, Google will perform a two-step release; the first starting late 2022 to test with the publishing and advertising industry, and the second starting mid-2023 to initiate the phase-out of third-party cookies altogether.

Build A Better Data Strategy

Now is not the time to be complacent. Third-party cookies are going away. Browsers like Mozilla and Safari already disable them by default, and privacy regulations around the globe are tightening to favor consented opt-in data over third-party collected data. Now is the time to find new opportunities for targeting, tracking and measurement that can withstand the test of time without relying on Google.

With the gift of time comes expectations for an even better data strategy, one that won’t be reliant on Google’s ups and downs, and that will work across all browsers, including Safari and Mozilla. To do that, marketers need to lead the charge:

  • Understand your data flow – Data doesn’t just come from third-party cookies. It can come from sign-up forms, subscriptions, search, email, sales CRM data, and much more. Before marketers assume that they don’t have the data they need, they should mine all of the different corners of their organization to see what data already exists and centralize it. With a single source of the truth, not only will there be a fuller picture of their audience, they’ll also all be working from the same information, creating better omnichannel outreach.
  • Identify risks in your data supply – As a data collector, travel marketers need to understand if their data is being collected and stored properly. Ensure that data is behind a firewall and that PII is not being shared improperly. The same applies to any data partner or vendor that a travel marketer works with.
  • Comply with your legal responsibility – If anything is found to be out of compliance, it’s important to stop using any data that was collected or used improperly. Marketers will also need to change any data collection policies to ensure future data collection is in compliance.
  • Shore up your sources – Identify gaps in data collection and see what types of partnerships can be forged to add to current insights. DMOs are ripe for sharing data with local businesses and attractions in a co-op scenario for example. Ensure that all partners are in compliance and create a safe way to share.
  • Advocate the change – Be a champion of quality data collection and use. Now is the time to spread the word and create allies. The more compliant data a marketer collects, the more independence they have regardless of changes that happen in the market.

Be The Change

Already, our industry is dealing with significantly less third-party data than we had just two years ago across all of the various browsers in the world. And it’s not letting up. Just last month Google announced the User String Reduction which aims to reduce the possibility of tracking users on Chrome. And Apple announced that they are going to start hiding users’ true IP addresses from publishers with the help of the iCloud Private Relay.

Data independence means that a marketer’s ability to reach their target audience is not solely reliant on the whims of tech giants, but rather their own data collection and management. This approach is more important than ever, despite the two-year push-back.

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