Context, Consolidation, and Collaboration: A recipe for success in the post-cookie world

Despite the focus the industry has placed on the end of third-party cookies since Google’s fateful announcement in 2020, the move to first-party data is not as seamless as might be expected. And that may be one reason why some companies have responded to Google’s delay in implementing its post-cookie policy by proceeding as if nothing will change.

It’s not that brands haven’t long coveted first-party data. As Norman Au, vice president of Partner Solutions at 4D, the Context Outcomes Engine for Silverbullet, notes, “for many brands, first-party data marketplaces have always been extremely valuable because of the rich data sets that can be derived directly from the consumer base.” However, he adds, “these have often been restrictive in both scale and breadth, while third-party data marketplaces have provided aggregated data from various sources,” even though “some of these sources have not proven to be that reliable.”

Regardless of their strengths or weaknesses, third-party cookies are destined for the compost heap. And as we discussed in a previous installment of this series, it’s critical that brands do not use Google’s postponement to just proceed with business as usual, but instead take the added time to figure out what systems will be necessary as they move forward, which protections they will have to have in place, and which companies they will need to partner with to achieve their goals.

The New Starting Point

The latter question may be the most pertinent, given that any data used today needs to be privacy compliant, consumer-centric, and focused on the best possible outcomes. That means that any brand launching a campaign needs to take into consideration not only how it will use the data it acquires to better target its audiences, but also such concerns as brand safety, brand suitability, website quality, pop-up free environments, piracy, fake news, and more.

In many cases, marketers that had been tapping into both the first- and third-party data marketplaces have now turned their focus toward contextual marketplaces that rely on real-time deterministic data with no latency period. This, notes Au, enhances the marketer’s experience because the context becomes that much richer with insight. Plus, he notes, “contextual targeting is going to be the future for a privacy-safe way to target in a world without cookies.”

“Working on multiple marketplaces or layering in data from a multitude of different partners can bring some serious challenges.”

With the third-party data marketplaces going away, context becomes a new starting point. But there’s an important wrinkle: How easy is it to use this new approach? Right now, Au points out, working on multiple marketplaces or tapping into and layering in data from a multitude of different partners can bring some serious challenges. Spread across many different platforms, he points out, “your outcomes may not be as strong as if they were consolidated in just one platform.”

A Range of Partners

What’s necessary, Au says, is “the ability to consolidate all targeting so that instead of doing context in one place and then doing third-party intent or demographic or brand safety on another platform and then combining it all together someplace else, you can come to a single place to do that.” A marketing brand agency, he contends, “needs to be in a place where it can consolidate its targeting, rather than going to two or three different platforms to create a campaign or different aspects of a campaign.”

With that in mind, Au notes that 4D is “talking to our clients to understand what targeting needs they have and where the intersection is of context and ad quality.” In responding to customer demands, Au says, 4D has constructed a Dimensions Marketplace that includes a number of carefully vetted partners that offer a wide range of capabilities. 4D uses a company such as Deep See, for example, to understand brand safety and ad quality targeting with a focus on domain quality that helps protect a brand from ad fraud. It uses White Bullet to focus on blocking ads from pirated websites. “Other partners,” Au adds, “focus on fake news or build out their own definitions of context. We want to make sure we have partners that customers will resonate to and that align with contextual targeting.”

“These partners may provide ‘data sets marketers may not have considered that help drive insights and outcomes they didn’t know were possible.’”

What’s critical, he notes, is not the number of partners in the marketplace, but the range and quality of the services they offer and the ability of brands to consolidate their efforts by collaborating with these partners—without necessarily having to find and vet the partners themselves. “You will need a variety of data partners who can help provide scale and insights, providing a tremendous array of data signals to strengthen contextual strategies in a fashion that is 100% compliant and privacy first,” Au says. These partners, he notes, may well provide “specific data sets that marketers may not have considered that they can leverage to help them drive insights and outcomes that they didn’t know were even possible.”

With Outcomes in Mind

It’s the focus on outcomes that will drive how marketers use both the available data and the collaboration inherent in something like the Dimensions Marketplace. Using, for example, 4D’s Outcomes Engine, Au notes, “you can track the campaign and see how it would have performed with certain segments in the marketplace; it’s a real-time optimization strategy.” At the same time, the engine will tell you whether using the services of specific partners makes sense. “Maybe you didn’t think you needed to prevent ad fraud or worry about a piracy website,” Au says. “But it may turn out that if you exclude the piracy sites, the click-through-rate goes up twofold.”

As Au describes it, “4D’s Outcomes Engine passes back information, looks back what contents were on the page, and sees what performs from a basic campaign’s metrics. With this information, it’s possible to tie that back to whether contextual signals were selected or if a contextual signal may have helped the campaign. It helps you optimize in the future.”

In the next installment in this series, we’ll take outcomes one step further, looking at how to optimize actionable insights to influence outcomes, all as a part of shaping the future of advertising.

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