What to do when the cookie crumbles

With the demise of the third-party cookie fast approaching, we need to reduce complexity and take a unified approach to identity, say a panel of industry experts…

What to do when the cookie crumbles

“Without cookies, the future of advertising will depend on data acquisition and how that is managed and governed,” said Phil Smith, CEO of ISBA, the trade body representing UK advertisers. “Marketers need a fuller trusted data set with lots of measure of quality, which allows people not just to count but attribute value.” 

Smith was speaking as part of a Campaign roundtable discussion, in partnership with The Trade Desk, exploring how marketers and advertisers can influence the future of identity in the cookieless future.

Industry experts expressed frustration that, while the future of the open internet will need to rely on creating new identities, there are no standardised solutions, leaving marketers frustrated, confused or ill-informed. 

Amir Malik, digital marketing expert at Accenture said: “Advertising online is too fragmented, so that has led to bad user experience and bad advertiser choice-making – they don’t know which technology or tools they need.”

Phillip Duffield, VP, UK at The Trade Desk agreed education is needed to guide marketers into the cookie-less era: “As an industry, we are not giving brands the opportunity to understand what is going to happen. We need to get better at communicating what we are trying to do to overcome their issues.” 

The call for a simplified advertising ecosystem was echoed by Sameer Amin, global director of data-driven marketing & media at Reckitt. “There is a lack of consistency in standards,” he said. “Everything is very bespoke to different platforms, so trying to understand and unite consumer journeys is super-tricky. There’s a lot of wastage in the marketing they’re doing, but it’s hard to pinpoint and minimise that wastage.”

Consumers as humans
In today’s online marketplace, people hold all the power, and yet the panel suggested consumers are still not being given the respect they deserve. ISBA’s Smith said: “We lose sight of the people who we call our customers – we need to stop thinking about ‘consumers’ as units who consume things that we sell to them.”

“It’s easy to abuse people’s trust online versus other forms of communication,” added Stephen Maher, chair of the data & marketing association. “Whether it's taking someone's data and using it incorrectly or just bombarding them with stuff that is irrelevant to their context or behaviour.”

It's this volume, irrelevance and poor timing of many digital advertisements that many consumers are finding difficult to tolerate. Gabrielle Robitaille, senior digital policy manager at the World Federation of Advertisers warned that whatever alternative the industry uses to replace cookies, it shouldn’t create the same problems.

“What I find frustrating is people are trying to find an alternative where consumers will continue to feel trapped – whereas we are not using this as an opportunity to rebuild,” she said. “We need to think about, ‘What are we trying to do for the consumer?’”

Standardise and collaborate
While there are different approaches to replacing cookies, Duffield said building consumer trust has to lie at the heart of the solution. “The Trade Desk is backing a new EUID to create a better identity – to give consumers more control, so they don’t feel they are being stalked – and we need to do that with the whole industry in mind.”

Hayley Cochrane, vice president, global digital & advanced advertising and partnerships, NBC Universal, said that this is where collaboration comes in. “As an industry, we all need to adopt a uniform approach that enables interoperability. At NBC, we are fully leaning into partnerships because we want to give marketers the ability to connect with consumers. If we collaborate, we can prioritise consumer experience, think of our audiences as real people and understand how they operate across platforms.”

The future of consent
As we move away from an ‘opt out’ to ‘opt in’ model of consent, consumers will have the control to influence their experience online. But changing audiences' perceptions about the value of advertising is key to gaining that consent.

Duffield said: “Advertising funds the open internet – it comes back to the education of humans in understanding that without advertising they would have to pay for content.”

He added: “There is too much complexity around consent – we need some leadership around, ‘This is what we are doing’. I get that there is frustration among users about consent and tick boxes – but there has to be that ‘one click’, so that you can build a profile.” 

To ride the cookie-free wave and reach consumers in different ways, alternative revenue streams are also likely to be explored by publishers, from branded content to product placement. “There’s not one definite answer that revenue is driven from subscriptions or affiliate marketing,” said Claire Blunt, chief advertising officer & CEO, international, Guardian News & Media. “For example, Netflix has introduced advertising – so there needs to be a blended model.”

Refocus on the creative
While there are frustrations and complexities surrounding the new advertising ecosystem, there is also a great deal of optimism in the industry and many see the demise of cookies as a blessing in disguise. 

Sam Hawkey, CEO at AMV BBDO, said creativity will be a powerful way for brands to stay in control of their own destiny. “One of the things I can control is how good my creative is and having a unique point of view on the world – that will make you stand out.” 

“When you've got first-party data where your audience is engaged, there’s a really interesting creative opportunity because you can be more specific and targeted,” he added. “Cookies being taken away is a good thing. It doesn't take away the need for more dynamic, personalised advertising, it puts the emphasis on getting things right creatively.” 

“The demise of cookies is forcing us to go back to basics and use classic marketing,” said Maher. “Whether that’s page search, advertising, DMs, first party data… It’s still about finding the right people in the right place at the right time. You don’t need a third-party cookie to do that, and you don’t need to abuse people’s data or bombard them with ads. Fundamentally, it’s about finding responsible ways to talk to people in a powerful way.” 

If you could change anything about the internet what would it be?

 “I would add a large disclaimer saying not everything you read here is true.” Stephen Maher, chair, data & marketing association 

“Advertisers find the lack of clarity in the programmatic space jarring, so it would be nice to find a way of bringing everyone together to look at solutions that would give them clarity.” Amir Malik, digital marketing expert, Accenture 

“We need a simplified privacy policy, which makes it easier for the consumer to opt in.” Travis Clinger, SVP of addressability and ecosystem, LiveRamp

“Simplification of format would be good– if there was more focus on ‘be brilliant in this space because we know it works’, that would be helpful, so you can get the media and the quality of work working together.” Sam Hawkey, CEO, AMV BBDO

“I would love to think we can educate the consumer or ‘human’, so they understand what is going on. I don't know if they have the interest to know – but my nirvana is that everybody understands it.” Claire Blunt, chief advertising officer & CEO, international, Guardian News & Media

“It’s about data and creativity being brought together – there should be more tailored creativity for the environment the human is in.” Milka Privodanova, general manager, Pinterest

“There needs to be more clarity, less complexity, more guidance and education around identity and what that means.” Phillip Duffield, VP, UK, The Trade Desk

 “I am not a big fan of anonymity online – there needs to be a form of verification in public spaces, especially when it comes to public message boards and things that are potentially harmful.” Phil Smith, CEO, ISBA

“We need to increase quality and decrease misinformation on the internet – we’ll look back at what people could do on the internet in the future and be shocked.”  Rob Bradley, SVP – Head of APAC, LatAm ad sales & International digital strategy, CNN

“We have to stop the bombardment. The volume of ads people have to go through just to look at a simple recipe is excessive.” Gabrielle Robitaille, senior digital policy manager, World Federation of Advertisers

 “It’s an incredibly exciting time – we really have to challenge our orthodoxies every day – invent, evolve, adapt and work with incredibly smart people. It’s complex and it’s hard, but we’ll get there.” Hayley Cochrane, vice president, global digital & advanced advertising and partnerships, NBC Universal 



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