Google may have pushed back the removal of third-party cookies but businesses need to get going now and use the extra time to establish new data sources that meet consumers’ expectations around privacy standards, says Kantar’s Kapil Sampanthan.

The impending demise of third-party cookies means agencies, advertisers and marketers are battling to develop new data strategies for planning and tracking online advertising. What will good look like in the future?

Some marketers are moving towards contextual advertising, while others are diving deeper into their own first-party data. However, as we learned with cookies, we cannot rely on one solution if we want meaningful insight into consumer behaviour. Moving forward, the most effective approaches must be holistic, combining a variety of data sources. This is crucial to help teams look up and out to spot emerging trends and identify new audiences, as well as ensuring they continue to stay close to the needs of existing customers and their growing desire for privacy.

New rules, new data sources

Marketers and advertisers know they need a practical roadmap for sourcing consumer data in the future, one that captures a wide view of behaviour to avoid becoming blinkered and stays on the right side of rising privacy concerns. The solution has to offer broad insight based on information shared by people who have given their consent.

Contextual advertising, such as when an athletics brand advertises to people who search for marathon or sporting events, can lead to a degree of personalisation and throw up useful insights. But this approach on its own doesn’t give advertisers enough of a detailed picture about the kinds of people who might be receptive to their services or products. Some are therefore combining contextual signals with first-party insight. That’s a step in the right direction but this method still has its limitations. First-party info is valuable but relying on it alone can lead to a law of diminishing returns for brands; revisiting the same data will keep giving them the same answers about their customer base. That makes it harder for them to grow and find new audiences.   

So, what’s the answer? User-consented data is the missing piece of the puzzle. Representative, survey-based panel data is already a well-established and trusted way for marketers to understand people’s opinions and attitudes and shape highly tailored campaigns. Crucially, it also conforms to ever increasing standards around privacy. While every campaign should be bespoke, the most effective digital ad strategies in future will marry this user-consented data with first-party insights at the initial stage of campaign planning, with this information supplemented by contextual signals during and after.

Businesses are starting to look at this approach but no-one has fully transitioned to it just yet. It takes a long time to get new platforms up and running that can combine the data from different sources while keeping on the right side of consumer privacy concerns. Our sector has been afforded some extra breathing space by Google pushing back the removal of third-party cookies. But this doesn’t mean kicking the conversation down the track – if you don’t want to get caught out, act now.

We should use this time to plan carefully and find new strategies that are privacy driven, but also to think more widely about how the end of third-party cookies can open the door to a new type of relationship between corporations and individuals.

The gateway to greater results

The conversation around third-party cookies reflects a bigger and longer standing challenge for the marketing community – how can we harness the power of data to target campaigns effectively while respecting consumers’ privacy? Getting this balance right is essential for the success of the industry. After all, it has been the growing cynicism among consumers about how their data is collected and used which has accelerated the turn away from third-party cookies in the first place. We need to stop history repeating itself.

Responding effectively to the ultimate demise of third-party cookies and growing concerns about privacy is about ensuring long-term commercial health, not just developing powerful campaigns. Ultimately, the brands that play their cards right stand to win the long-term loyalty of their customers as well as benefit from a wealth of insight.