Ad Industry Wrestles With Measurement In New Privacy-Compliant World

In the evolving, cookie-less, privacy-attuned world, the changes Apple is making to its IDFA (identifier for advertisers) and Google is making to its FLoC (federated learning of cohorts), pose complex problems for advertising and media measurement, driving new rules for consumer targeting. An Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) Town Hall on Tuesday sought to address them, but also raised critical questions.

If an Apple consumer blocks his or her recognition, the entire chain for that consumer is blocked, which ultimately will affect accuracy of any subsequent analysis. So, as both cookies and device IDs go away, will traditional marketing and campaign measurement techniques return to the forefront? 

Already we are hearing about the resurgence of contextual targeting as a substitute, which can surely be interpreted as everything old is new again?  Context has always been important in media planning and buying.  Back to the future?  



Will Facebook reestablish its own privacy policies, which have come under increasing attack?  Probably not, unless external pressure is more substantial.  U.S. consumers are significantly not as privacy-conscious as E.U. consumers, but that can change.  Apparently, Facebook has already made significant modifications to its so called, “intelligent tracking practices.”  This includes modification to -- or cancellation of -- its current attribution, A/B testing and store visit optimization offerings.   

Google will stop individual ad tracking by 2022, however it will continue to do so via Chrome and will assign its users to “cohorts” for targeting based on the most recent seven days of browsing.  Cohorts will surely require conversion and allocation measurement and validation -- if not Media Rating Council accreditation -- before being accepted?  

With the cutting out of first-party data, the ARF Town Hall -- as well as a a previous ARF and CIMM Insights Studio session in March --  highlight the concept of value exchange between the consumers and social media platforms.  As big as Google Chrome is, it will lack first-party data scale.  

One recurring theme appears to be the value of collaboration on sharing the various non-first-party or “walled garden” data sources, albeit based on regulatory compliance, security and anonymity.  It was suggested that this will bring opportunities for innovators and specialists in developing an array of different, non-identifiable targeting/ID solutions for marketers and measurement companies.  

Nielsen is taking a “new approach” to media measurement in an effort to address this digital disruption, marketplace fragmentation and consumer privacy in order to fulfill its goal of measuring all audiences, across all platforms and devices.  That goal is fundamental to deduplicating audiences across platforms to estimate reach of any target group.  Still a vital metric for any ad campaign.  

Do these developments make more traditional media including connected TV (CTV), for example, which never relied on cookies in the first place -- which are independently measured via more traditional methods -- even more valuable to advertisers and their agencies?  Surely these media and the brand messages they carry are significantly easier to manage and measure?  Also, traditional video providers and the devices rendering content via their distribution systems have substantial safeguards and protections not currently offered by many social media platforms.  Do I hear anyone murmuring “avoid toxic content?” 

These announcements put increased pressure on advertisers to understand the multidimensional effects of data privacy (or is that piracy?), as well as the consequent effects on their ability to understand and optimize their media ad exposure their and marketing impacts by brand. The new privacy-compliant advertising and media world needs to be understood across all marketing investments, whether digital or terrestrial, across all channels.  

Perhaps data privacy -- and giving consumers explicit control over what they opt in to -- imbues “the best of times and the worst of times” for media and marketing.  But what a marvelous challenge.

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