By Robert Sewell, CEO, SmartFrame
It’s going to be a challenging year for marketers. The industry continues to face the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and while Google’s deadline for the death of the third-party cookie looms large, this week’s move away from FLoC adds further uncertainty.
It is largely recognised that improving data privacy and better respecting consumer preferences is a positive step forward. However, how can brands continue to find safe and engaging ways to connect with consumers in this complicated environment?
First Things First: Data
The hunt for privacy-centric solutions has placed more emphasis on first-party data. Industry players are focused on extracting as much value as possible from this information, for both themselves and their advertiser partners.
The industry shift to first-party data, however, has its own complexities, favouring big corporations that benefit from logged-in, global audiences while leaving many smaller brands with a lack of information to work with.
To address this imbalance, strategic first-party data partnerships will increasingly become the norm.
While cookies have offered a single source of truth for ad targeting, advertisers will move to partner with a variety of publishers and other data owners, each with their own technology solutions. The challenge will be in selecting the right combination of partners to meet their needs effectively and efficiently — and savvy agency players will make the most of the opportunity this brings with it.
Context is Everything
Clearly, the move to first-party data won’t be a straightforward one and advertisers can’t rely on this alone to continue delivering impactful campaigns. The hunt for cookieless targeting options has seen the resurgence and evolution of tried and tested approaches — in particular contextual targeting.
This is already reflected in budgets, with a current growth rate of 13.3% meaning the global contextual advertising market is set to reach $335.1 billion by 2026, up from an estimated $157.4 billion in 2020
Contextual targeting addresses some of the most pressing concerns the industry has around data privacy. Its power lies in the use of non-personally identifiable information to target advertising based on the content the user is viewing, rather than other commonly used indicators such as age or gender. This empowers advertisers to attract both new and existing audiences based on affirmed interests, placing ads where consumers are already engaging. The approach increases relevancy and helps to build more meaningful relationships with consumers while reducing the risk of privacy breaches.
Collaboration Is Key
In reality, brands looking to achieve scale and efficiency will use a combination of solutions to fill the void left by third-party cookies. What will really make the difference between winning and losing in this transition is the partnerships they choose.
When it comes to contextual advertising, successful targeting will depend on the accuracy of webpage information. This calls for increasingly sophisticated technology, both to ensure brand safety and to deliver ads where they will be most effective.
Many businesses sing the praises of advanced AI-based solutions, with Google — for example — relying on the technology for image recognition. However, its margin for error is still high. AI-driven solutions have been shown to mistake weapons for musical instruments and describe images containing a smiling individual as joyful, without understanding that the wider context of the image is more sinister.
This is where collaboration across the industry is vital. Solutions that can go further than estimations — using metadata from the content owner, for example, to provide exact information — give brands the accuracy needed to remove all doubt about the safety of ad placements.
This could include insight about the person in an image, where they are and when it was taken but most importantly, why they are in that situation. Combining this level of data with anonymised user location and device information creates a highly informed foundation for contextual ad targeting.
It is clear that navigating this complex and constantly shifting market requires advertisers to expand both their toolkits and their resources. Whether this means increasing access to first-party data, experimenting with marketing strategies or exploring new technology, brands need to prepare themselves for more change.
While this might be both challenging and intimidating, it also bears the potential for more organic, more intuitive, and importantly, more privacy-centric advertising.