Coca-Cola pushes for 'unified' online identity amid growing cookie pressure

FMCG brand wants to build first-party data on customers and plug this into a commonly defined audience ID.

Coke: 'first-party insourcing is on the race'
Coke: 'first-party insourcing is on the race'

Coca-Cola wants to grow its first-party data and invest in an industry-wide unified audience ID in anticipation of a move beyond third-party cookie-tracking.

The soft-drinks giant joined a host of agency and adtech experts at ATS Singapore on Monday in calling for the industry to agree on a common "identity" for online audiences – a move that will bring greater consistency to media planning and protect the future of the open internet.

"We need to figure out a unified solution across the whole landscape – that is where the independent market can survive," Vidyarth Eluppai Srivatsan, Asia-Pacific marketing technologies leader at Coca-Cola, said. "Otherwise there is going to be status quo with all walled gardens. That is where we want to invest strategically."

Ravi Shankar, data and technology lead for Asia-Pacific at Omnicom Media Group's Annalect, agreed: "As an industry, we need to create a common solution which will help industry in value exchange and drive efficiency."

"If we don’t come together as an industry, there's going to be more acquisitions, more companies perishing," Sunil Naryani, regional general manager of programmatic and paid media at Dentsu Aegis Network, added.

Such an initiative must be led by a neutral party such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the industry’s trade body, the panel agreed.

"It cannot be led by one adtech vendor or publisher, it has to be a group coming together," Shankar said.

The IAB Tech Lab has already made moves in this space. Last year, it bought DigiTrust, a membership-based, not-for-profit initiative that offers a standardised identifier for ad-targeting.

This is in addition to The Trade Desk’s Unified ID Solution and the Advertising ID Consortium, which last year lost some significant backers.

However, these initiatives are led by the US and have not as of yet spread to Asia-Pacific, a market that has vastly different requirements, according to Colleen Ngo, vice-president of partnerships and investment, Asia-Pacific, at Xaxis.

"There is a lot of effort being put into the industry trying to create a single profile of users. However, we are still not talking to each other as much as we should," Ngo said. "In APAC especially, no-one has tapped into it or had that conversation so we can collectively identify a user under the same definitions."

First-party data and in-housing

Coca-Cola is also looking at ways to grow its first-party data, such as gleaning mobile IDs from apps (likely payment) that interact with its vending machines.

"First-party insourcing and having that direct relationship with consumers is on the race," Srivatsan said.

The erosion of the cookie is placing greater emphasis on mobile device IDs, a particularly strong tracking tool in Asia-Pacific, where smartphone penetration is rapidly on the rise. Of the 710 million people expected to subscribe to mobile services for the first time over the next seven years, half will come from Asia-Pacific, according to the GSMA's 2019 The  Mobile Economy report.

As the value placed on mobile device IDs increases, it is important for brands to own that data rather than outsource it to an agency or technology provider, Srivatsan said.

"As brands, we need to look at our data and have better control of it," he said. "It is easy for us to outsource identity to someone else then realise we are hooked on to that outlet. Owning the mobile device IDs is one key part of our strategy locally."

His comments were echoed by NTUC Income chief marketing officer Marcus Chew, who said in a later panel that "data in-housing is a definite" for brands, but added that for media buying it is "an absolute no".

"It is very difficult to compete with talent in this space and it is also very costly," Chew said.

Contextual targeting reignited

Privacy has become a key theme in the digital advertising world this year.

Apple, Facebook and Google have all announced privacy-first initiatives that give users greater oversight and control over how they are tracked across the internet, including Apple and Google's crackdown on third-party cookies, Apple's anonymised sign-in ID and Facebook's "clear history" tool.

Against this backdrop, Google Singapore head of platforms tech Deirdre Chew took the stage at ATS to reassure advertisers that "respecting user privacy and optimising business outcomes are not mutually exclusive".

Chew outlined a number of initiatives Google was investing in to help advertisers "do more with less".

"As a responsible tech platform, we need to help marketers and publishers extract more insight from less data," she said. "Our approach is to invest in long-term measurement solutions, especially since methods that rely on third-party cookies are under pressure. We also offer a privacy-safe environment to join first-party enterprise data with log-level campaign data, as well as offering pre-defined audience segments."

Chew also pointed to the benefits of contextual data, an old-school targeting method that a number of industry executives have suggested will be reinvigorated by the death of the third-party cookie.

"Contextual signals can be used to target the right audience with the right ad, but without user-specific signals," she said. "Publishers can match marketers to the right audience using contextual content."

A version of this story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific

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