Could The Death Of Cookies Actually Breathe New Life Into Advertising?

Could The Death Of Cookies Actually Breathe New Life Into Advertising?

In this guest post, Cummins& Partner’s chief data and tech officer, Andy Copeland (main photo), says rather than fear the end of cookies, their imminent demise may well force agencies to refocus on the one thing that really matters – the customer…

There’s no denying that cookies are a critical component to how digital advertising is executed. We’re reliant on them for much of what makes modern marketing “modern”, from simple tracking to sophisticated personalisation. Naturally, news of the cookie’s impending doom has raised a lot of concern about how the more technical among us will progress in a cookieless future.

No, our ability to track, target and personalise won’t die off completely but we will need to adjust. We won’t be able to rely on large, anonymous ‘audiences’ made up of questionable cookie-based profiles that provide us with the scale we need. Those who do own ethically sourced and accurate data will become even more in demand, likely leading to price rises. We’ll be more reliant on our clients’ first party data to understand their consumers better and we’ll need to become comfortable with the more advanced clients providing us with insights, rather than the other way around.

Whether we realise it or not, cookies permeate almost all aspects of what we do. We’re so reliant on cookies in fact, that we’ve largely, and probably unintentionally, structured our entire industry around them. We have dedicated digital teams disconnected from traditional media to leverage their technical expertise. We’ve installed specialist audience, analysis and reporting teams to sift through the mountain of data these little snippets of code provide to extract insights that move our businesses forward. And we’ve separated creative and media into two mutually exclusive skill sets, designed to leverage the supposedly different personalities and mindsets that exist in each.

The result is a fragmented industry, with all of us trying to own our niche and promote that one thing we can do that no one else can. We’ve become so wrapped up in showcasing specific smarts that we’ve forgotten about the most important group of people, customers. And do you know who cares the least about our smarts? Yes, customers.

Customers don’t care about how complicated it is to serve an ad, how many rounds of revision it took to get the message right or what audience segmentation went into targeting them vs someone else (assuming the data was ethically used of course). What they want is simple…connect with them in the right context and tell them something useful. As our targeting and measurement ability decreases (note, not disappears), customers’ expectations remain the same. It is up to us to rise to that challenge.

So how could the death of cookies aid us in better connecting with our customers?

Creative + consumer + context = success!

It is a formula we already use, “right message, to the right person, at the right time/place”.

As context and consumers become harder to pinpoint en masse, creative will have to pick up the slack in order to deliver the same level of consumer satisfaction and business success.

This should be a relatively simple adjustment to make, especially in the short term as we work out how to bring some of the sophistication back to the context and consumer components. Simple, except for one thing, creative, context and consumer insights don’t live in the same place, or even within the same business anymore. What we’re asking is for businesses to negotiate a new balance of investment, downweighting previously profitable components as they become less capable.

The only way that will happen and clients will be well serviced is for us to remove any commercial conflicts that preclude us from delivering a genuinely flexible approach to investment.

We will start to see businesses reuniting strategy, creative, media, data and technology under the same roof. We’ll return to a business model where messaging and medium are once again connected through the lens of what best engages the consumer. It’s a business model that served us incredibly well until we began focusing more on our own unique sales points and less about consumers. It is also a business model that, for decades, helped build many of the world’s most famous brands in a time when the magic was in the creative and media smarts were still in their infancy.

Should we throw out all of the technical and media smarts? Absolutely not! We know success cannot be achieved through just one element of our formula. We need them all to work together, leveraging each other’s strengths and offsetting their weaknesses.

We will maintain most of our technical capability after cookies die out. In fact, great technical expertise will be more in demand than ever as access to data and insights become more difficult. However, the balance of power is shifting and our equation will be more evenly balanced moving forwards. To really leverage the potential that that balance brings, we need to remove as many of our self-imposed barriers as possible.

So let’s put the band back together.











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