Consumer privacy became top of mind with the introduction of the Global Data Protection Regulation in 2018 and the California Consumer Privacy Act in 2020. Both brought greater attention to consumer privacy and personal data collection practices — so much so that the likes of Safari and Firefox began enforcing more stringent tracking prevention. All of this has continued to move the industry toward a cookieless future, which will reach its apex when Google removes third-party cookies, which is set for late 2023.
Consumers were quick to voice their concerns, demanding more control over their personal data and greater transparency around the information collected, used, and shared by businesses. Soon after, consumers were seeing cookie disclaimers on nearly all websites. Admittedly, these have been disclaimers only, not changing cookie practices, but it was a step toward transparency.
Now, however, real change is on its way — a change that goes beyond a disclaimer on company websites. Google and Apple have promised to eliminate third-party cookies, leaving advertisers to find viable third-party cookie alternatives if they want to keep offering high-quality personalized experiences. Many are finding real promise in cookie-free solutions like connected TV (CTV) and over-the-top (OTT) advertising, as well as digital audio and podcast ads.
CTV and OTT Advertising
CTV and OTT advertising is a great third-party cookie alternative, as it enables you to place pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll advertisements on streaming media platforms like Hulu, Roku, and Peacock and devices like smart TVs, smartphones, laptops, etc. While some of these ads are skippable or limited with premium subscriptions, they’re highly targeted and engaging. You’re getting your message in front of the most relevant consumers, and with countless streaming services now available, you can target niche audiences.
Streaming has seen a huge spike in popularity. As of the beginning of last year, 34% of people were using ad-supported streaming services, and that share of the population continues to grow. These platforms make it possible for advertisers to identify how inventory is performing by services, devices, networks, content categories, and demographics and then get their ads in front of the right audience based on this information — something that never would have been possible with traditional TV.
CTV/OTT and digital audio platforms offer unparalleled targeting and audience segmentation information, including device/platform, purchase affinity, broadcast type, weather, content category, app store, and more. And reporting on these platforms only continues to improve. In our partnership with Peer39, we can now offer channel, show, and content categories alongside the typical CTV/OTT metrics we use, such as impressions and completion rates.
Digital Audio Advertising
Digital audio is another third-party cooking alternative that places pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads on audio platforms. Think podcasts, music streaming services, and so on. Much like CTV and OTT advertising, digital audio offers precision in targeting. Choose a topic, interest, or podcast host that aligns with your brand, product, or service, and you’ll likely find a podcast with a devoted fanbase on which to place your ad. And because the medium is growing: At the end of last year, the number of paid audio subscribers in the U.S. alone surpassed 121 million — it’s a lucrative place to reach engaged and diverse consumers.
Where to Go From Here
Venturing early into either of these spaces offers a competitive edge. With the risk being relatively low, they give you an opportunity to experiment and test different CTV/OTT and audio mediums to find best practices that deliver returns. This puts you in a position to not only make the most out of your media spend but keep ahead of the competition.
Time being of the essence, you need to start exploring what your marketing will look like in a cookieless world. Strategies might change, new technologies will come on the scene, and partnerships will evolve. Regardless, let the following tactics serve as your foundation going forward:
1. Stay informed.
With so much change, it’s important to stay curious and test out new CTV/OTT channels and solutions. Experimenting can help you learn and make more informed decisions about where to direct your marketing efforts. More importantly, it helps you remain open to new ideas. You never know where the next opportunity will be found.
2. Align ads with contextual targeting.
CTV/OTT and digital audio advertising offer incredible contextual targeting ability. Because consumers are already engaging with the platform, you have an opportunity to captivate them with relevant ads that align with the environment they’re in and the content they’re engaging with. Not only does contextual targeting allow you to reach users in a hyper-relevant way, but it also offers your brand security. You choose the environment your ad is played in, limiting the risk that it’s placed in an environment that doesn’t align with your values or story.
3. Unify your tech stack.
While you can still work with different vendors and technologies, the time has come to centralize your marketing tech stack and take a unified approach. Doing so ensures that all that marketing data, CRM data, and other customer information can come together to provide a clearer picture of your target audience — and then work with your technology to move people along the path to purchase.
Take CTV, for example. When working within the same unified tech stack, you can run retargeted display ads to audiences who viewed your ad while watching their favorite TV shows, thus homing in on your message and moving these customers down the funnel more quickly. Connecting as many digital touchpoints as possible creates a more seamless and customized customer journey, which is what moves the needle with today’s buyers.
4. Don’t waste media spend.
Determining how to measure omnichannel performancehasn’t always been easy, but CTV/OTT and digital audio advertising make it possible — and in real time. You don’t have to wait to see omnichannel ROI or where to invest more, because these platforms offer real-time categorization, enabling advertisers to scale quickly and effectively.
The cookieless future is upon us, but it doesn’t have to be bad news. Preparation will be key, but you have great options to maintain your marketing and targeting abilities. Consider all of your options, learn what each of them offers, and determine which ones make the most sense for you and your customers.
To learn more, download our whitepaper, “How to Prepare for the Cookieless Future,” here. And learn more about future-proof cookieless solutions in our next blog post covering upcoming changes to measurement solutions.