Personalized advertising, the slowly faltering method based on identifiers, has long been the norm in the advertising industry. Cookies and device IDs are specifically designed to gather information from you – the individual – on your own device, in order to display advertisements based on relevant topics that interest you.
As the user navigates the web or an app, these identifiers build up their history, profile, and preferences. This gives great understanding of consumer behaviors, but at the expense of privacy.
Cookies and Advertising IDs Are Dead – Long Live Consumer Privacy
In one of the biggest turns of digital advertising history, advertising identifiers now seem to be crumbling under pressure from privacy-conscious consumers and regulators. This reflects the growing trend in users becoming far more aware of the value of their own data (seeing big tech players like Apple implement new iOS privacy rules for instance), that now makes it just as easy for users to say ‘no’ to advertising tracking compared to before. With this in mind, there will be an inevitable shrinking of IDs being readily available to digital advertisers.
The same is true for Google, which has rang the death knell of third-party cookies. Google has been planning for years to scrap cookies, just recently announcing its new tool called Topics, a replacement for FLoC, another form of web tracking.
As the future of cookies and IDs relies on the decisions made by the big players of the tech world, the industry will need to find future-proof solutions that are independent from these moves. Last but not least, regulators, with Europe and GDPR at the helm, are requiring companies to get users’ explicit consent before accessing a computer or smartphone’s personal ID. As a result, the share of consumers who agree to share their data for advertising purposes is plummeting.
Was Personalization Ever Worth It?
Even with established personalisation techniques based on cookies and device IDs, brands and their adtech partners still get a very limited knowledge of their target. For example, they might know that customers visiting site Y are also visiting site W, but only if the two websites are part of the same ad network. However, they have no way of knowing that their audience is consuming video-on-demand service Z, because that site is outside their terrain and has no advertising space. Even unified IDs can’t improve advertisers’ grasp of their target’s interests. They simply cannot access the essential knowledge of what their target does when it’s not within their terrain. This is only going to get harder in a world where IDs are shrinking.
Advertisers all over the world will start to look for alternatives to these traditional targeting models, adapting their strategies accordingly. Crucially, contextual and semantic advertising appears as the obvious solution, but it is not the game-changing alternative brands hope for.
Is Contextual and Semantic Targeting the Answer?
Seeking cookieless alternatives to the wavering methods of personalized advertising, many AdTech platforms turned to contextual and semantic targeting. This is an easily deployable technique of serving ads that are relevant to their surrounding context. Contextual and semantic advertising provides target understanding based on the context of the app or web page – such as location, time of day, and the type of content that is being read. This data put together can estimate a rough profile of a potential visitor, but in fact offers brands very limited actual audience intelligence. What is more, it cannot be considered a true differentiator as any online advertiser has access to this kind of contextual information held in a bid request.
To those in the industry, both these options – personalized and contextual and semantic advertising – fall short of the necessary requirements brands and advertisers need to survive: understanding their target behavior.
As long as AdTech experts use suboptimal targeting techniques and struggle to access required levels of audience intelligence, brands will be severely hindered. After all, the value of online advertising lies in that special access your brand has to insights that other brands don’t have.
Personification Not Personalization
The way personified advertising works is by using audience interest data to qualify impressions, instead of personal data that qualifies users. This specific target interest data has been analysed for several years, monitoring opted-in users’ who have allowed access to their extensive and unique mobile journey, across a large variety of apps and websites. This data repository is constantly validated through survey data to ensure advertisers have both an enhanced and refreshed understanding of their users’ preferences.
Being able to identify the right interests that will truly engage consumers gives brands the necessary advantage over other competitors in the market. Of the plethora of solutions out there, only a few can leverage niche and essential insights on their chosen target – for example, ‘Daily Mail website users being much more interested in video-on-demand services than the rest of the population’. Knowing and understanding these types of insights is critical for those wanting to successfully reach out to the right audience on the online platforms they realistically visit the most. Technologies that use personified methods can enable this, delivering in-depth insights and stronger results.
The Future of Digital Advertising
One thing is certain: personalized advertising already provides limited knowledge of users’ interests and will soon disappear. Contextual and semantic targeting alone won’t be enough to thoroughly understand online users.
It is clear, personified advertising’s powerful use of ID-less and cookieless targeting offers the potential to be a successful alternative on the market, that gives actionable insights whilst still respecting privacy. As an extensive, unique, and non-replicable tool, it emerges as the only future-proof and sustainable solution to keep digital advertising aligned with its mission: enabling brands to understand and address a specific target, without diluting value and losing sight of their purpose.