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How the Death of the 3rd Party Cookie Will Help Return us to More Effective Media Planning


a bite from a cookie representing the death of the third party cookieAs data-centric media delivery has evolved with the advent of the 3rd party cookie, digital media was expected to improve, but the end result has had the opposite result. CPM’s (Cost per Thousand Impressions) has dropped not due to the fact that technology has made things more efficient, but due to the fact that the value of many digital placements has dropped. As Google, Apple and others have begun to eliminate 3rd party cookies, digital media planners are scrambling  to get back to their roots with strategies based on a broader array of opportunities.

As we move to a cookie-less world we’ll see:

  • Targeting the vital few misses opportunity
  • How relevant content improves ad impact
  • The resurgence of the media partner
  • How direct contacts provide the best opportunity

80/20 media planning misses a lot of opportunity

In the last few years, digital media has transformed into a series of hyper focused initiatives – where we’re targeting the most likely prospect with our media efforts (the vital few) – and in turn we’ve started missing out on the larger audience (the useful many) that tend to make up a significant amount of our results. If our efforts are only focused on the 20% who offer the most opportunity, we’re completely missing the 80% of potential prospects who don’t meet our defined target. Too many of us are concerned that the cookie-less world with limit our ability to reach our specific target – whereas I believe the opportunity to gain greater reach against a broader target of similar audiences is going to generate better results – more efficiently! All of those fees for targeted data layers are going to go away and we’ll get greater reach for less $$.

Context matters

With a cookie-based approach audience targeting is based on data profiles, but overlooks the context of the ad placement. Showing an ad to a business owner for a new office product will have higher recall and response if that ad is shown in business related content (for example on the NYTimes business news articles as opposed to the recipe pages of NYTimes cooking). Contextual targeting has long been the core strategy across most traditional media – and it works. Beverage ads in sports venues increase sales and positive brand association because of where you see the ad, not just because you meet a specific audience profile.

Media Salespeople are helpful

There’s a misguided perception that media salespeople are focused on selling space, taking you out to dinners or events (back when we could do that) or sending gifts.  Yes, those perks did exist, but the other thing that buyer-seller relationships provided was opportunity. Over the years, I’ve been able to develop some extremely unique media opportunities by partnering with the sales team – something you can’t really do programmatically. One example of this was for a client that offered a unique technology solution that fit a very specific niche in a b2b market. Working with the sales team we were able to build a content area related to our niche – and sponsor that content. The publisher also became a key source of information on the topic. A win-win for both sides.

The other thing media partners will bring to the table is their first party data (which in essence becomes 2nd party data when buying). Media sites typically have excellent data about their audiences. Working closely with your media partners will allow advertisers the ability to target specific audiences in ways that third party data never could.

First Party is the best party

Looking back at the traditional world – back when we could attend trade shows marketers often had the opportunity to buy the list of show attendees, but they’d also put a fishbowl out at their booth for people to drop their cards for additional information. Which list would you give to your sales team to call first?

First party data is data that you collect and own. Third party data is data you buy from someone else that “matches” your parameters. Remember the game telephone? Where you whisper a message into one person’s ear, and it gets passed down the line and when the last person says the message out loud it’s completely different? The same thing happens with third party data. The cookie-based world relies heavily on third party audience data to find your prospects – but most often there’s no visibility into how that data is collected or what specifically made that cookie match your profile. Many of the cookie-based profiles are created based on a collection of activities that while they may meet one part of your definition, there are other components that didn’t make as good a fit.

In the end, smart media planners, sellers, advertisers and consumers will succeed

Once again history will repeat itself as we move to a cookie-less world. Smart media planners recognize that advertising is and always will be more of an art than a science. The art of advertising is centered on having the right message, in the right place, at the right time in front of the right audience. Over the last several years, third party cookies have shifted the focus from message and place and instead emphasized focus on audience (and in some cases, more specifically the person). In the cookie-less world we’re going to be heading back to using more strategy, more research, and better partnerships resulting in bigger benefits for the consumer and advertiser.

Not sure how to change your media mix?

  • Do the big 3 (Google/Facebook/Amazon) deserve 50% of your ad spend?
  • Should you buy banners that don’t get clicked on?
  • Are my remarketing ads creeping people out?

There are a lot of factors to consider when looking at your digital mix, and two of the biggest relate to your industry and your annual spend. Request our guide to the Optimal Digital Media Mix with industry suggestions based on actual customer data (No we won’t share their specifics, but we will show you trends by category, etc. based on real campaign activity).

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