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Concept image of a person meditating within a field of virtual data.

By Ajay Gupta, CEO, Stirista

On top of the impending cookie deprecation, Apple’s recent iOS changes are causing concern for many advertisers by affecting pixels, IP addresses and email addresses. And while these upcoming changes may be concerning for many, shifting mindsets and getting away from a binary way of thinking with solutions being 100% contextual or 100%, universal IDs can help stakeholders put the pieces together and tackle these challenges and those still yet to come.

This is not uncharted territory; there have been dynamic approaches throughout the recent history of the advertising industry, with some solutions having never needed cookies at all.

With Apple blocking pixels, advertisers will need to look at email metrics beyond open rates. Apple’s iOS 15 update blocks open pixels and while this is scary to some, some experts say to embrace it. Maybe see this as an opportunity to bring the industry back to reality, one in which marketers are focusing more on their message and are relying on more modern, more accurate and viable attribution tools that they should have been using all along.

Some businesses guarantee 10%-20% open rates but those numbers can feel a bit “picked out of a hat” at times and seldom hold much significance. At the outset of a short- or long-term email engagement, it’s important to set KPIs that are as close to business results as possible. Using both online and offline datasets to represent transactions and customers can create a layered measurement approach that looks at sales lift and matches it back to first-party sales, such as transaction data.

While this may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Basically, don’t put all your eggs in one basket and start the conversation about that early. That will give you time to answer the questions that may come up when speaking across the company and with vendors. It gives you time to find out what data you have, what can be shared and how.

Also, limitations on targeting IP addresses are changing the way users are tracked online. The iOS 15 update also allowed users to hide their IP addresses, which will limit how third parties track users across the internet. With these updates, marketers will need to focus on more meaningful email engagement.  The first step is to ask all vendors what impact on their systems they anticipate, what options they have in place to enable performance and what items they have on their roadmap to improve the performance of their marketing.

Essentially, with the continual push for more data privacy, advertisers must accept some new normals moving forward. They’ll have to accept that a meaningful share of impressions is in identity-free contexts.  Advertisers with large budgets or high enough growth targets, will have to find ways to work in those identity-free contexts. When starting now, they can use identity-dependent ways of measuring performance to give them the headstart needed to identify which identity-free media buying is the most effective for them.”

The advice for marketers not to put all their eggs in one basket extends to contextual and universal ID solutions also. Relying entirely on one or the other will be a mistake in the post-cookies world. With email and IP tracking becoming more limited, there’s already been a shift toward dynamic solution mindsets, which will be an essential move to make once cookies are gone for good.

A lot of clients have a rich history and a lot of baggage around cookie-dependent activations. When they start onboarding their first-party data to a platform that doesn’t rely on cookies, they are often surprised at the match rates to their first-party lists and the scale at which they can find and buy impressions toward those lists. They are surprised and delighted at how well cookieless targeting can be done and that it exists now.

In the end, identity will always be a set of moving parts. There will always be policy changes on the horizon. It’s important to reset mindsets and stop approaching identity solutions as monolithic on/off switches. Not only will there not be one single universal identity solution but it’s also not necessary to make a complete switch right away.

The throughline here is that a dynamic approach is needed. When seeking a partner to help navigate the post-cookie world, partners who have relied on cookies in the past are likely to deliver tactics that have been seen before. In contrast, partners who have never relied on cookies will likely provide much more dynamic solutions.

Curiosity, flexibility, technical expertise and accountability are the essential characteristics when identifying a prospective partner. A good partner will understand the problem, options and guardrails and then approach the business from a real problem solving and constructive mindset. They will be flexible while still delivering performance when the constraints of a given innovation don’t perfectly line up with best practices. They can tie media expertise, measurement expertise and technical expertise together and the outcome becomes a program that is executed with technical proficiency, delivering the best results. If a partner is hesitant about holding an engagement accountable to business-level KPIs, that should be a red flag.