Brainchild Communications’ Farhan Khan explains how his media agency is steering advertisers towards growing digital sophistication before the death of the third party cookie in 2023.

If there’s one good thing about the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the shared misery that has brought the world closer. By directly or indirectly suffering in our own ways due to the lockdowns, personal protection measures, social distancing, decline in socialising and the need to adopt new ways of working, the human race found common ground for the first time in a long time. Shared experiences by their nature are a uniting force and shared misery truly does love company.

With nearly 3.75 billion people vaccinated worldwide, we can expect to return to what we once knew as normal life. In truth, some COVID countermeasures ought to stay, such as flexible working arrangements, short meetings, reduced commuting and spending quality time with loved ones. The absence of retail experiences also meant that large advertisers have shifted to a direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model in both distribution and marketing.

Among the many benefits of the D2C model is the acquisition of quality first party data, which will be regarded as even more valuable than brand royalty and goodwill.

While paid, earned and shared media have their place, capturing audiences on an owned platform has greater power and potential to be pandemic and lockdown-proof. It creates deeper opportunities to grow customer lifetime value and an understanding of the customer based on shopping and buying behaviours, thus helping to curate meaningful customer experiences.

This approach to business and customers does not just bring flexibility and grow business opportunities – it also facilitates data acquisition. This is because Chrome – the largest internet browser in the world based on userbase – will phase out third party cookies over a three-month period, starting in mid-2023.

Ahead of the curve

The importance of first party data, the value of growing a customer base that is signed in at all times due to a service or offering with multiple long-term use cases, the removal of third party cookies in the long run, and the growing importance of contextual targeting are among the reasons we at Brainchild Communications Pakistan (BCP) worked with Oracle to create and launch a second party marketplace. BCP is ranked in the 2020 RECMA media agency report as the largest media agency in Pakistan based on total revenue and revenue per employee.

The new service offering has accelerated our investments in acquiring top talent. BCP created the second party marketplace as one of the many tools in our suite of solutions to pivot in a data-deprived world. Behaviour-based online advertising has always relied on third party cookies which, by their function, track a consumer’s digital behaviours as indicators of intent, interest and future action.

The loss of third party cookies in 2023 means that advertisers and agencies will need to utilise segment-level targeting and contextual advertising using their own first party cookie data along with second party data marketplaces.

As covered by MediaPost, advertisers such as Mondelez, Coca-Cola and National Foods have used the BCP second party data marketplace to build lookalike models for audience targeting.

Case study

Mondelez Pakistan Limited created an online platform called Cadbury Generosity that allowed students to leave a heartfelt message on the Wall of Fame and send their teachers a personalised Cadbury Dairy Milk Gift Box. 

This experimental campaign was the first of its kind in Pakistan, using an advanced DMP solution like Oracle BlueKai and second party data to create lookalike audiences for a campaign.

The US multinational confectionery, F&B and snack food company worked with the programmatic team at BCP to create awareness about the role that teachers play in helping parents and students in Pakistan transition into online learning.

Using Google Display & Video 360 (DV 360), the programmatic team at BCP optimised the campaign with automated tools for reporting. We applied a test and learn model using descriptive and predictive analytics to make the most of audience data. The programmatic team at BCP leveraged a second party database to provide high student affinity data sets and deliver highly relevant audiences.

Using DV 360 for all the programmatic display buying, the programmatic team at BCP analysed, adjusted and pivoted the overall process. The campaign required the programmatic team at BCP to use first party data from the Cadbury Generosity website along with second party data from the two largest publishers in Pakistan, namely Hamariweb and Urdupoint, along with Google DV 360 and Facebook pixels.

Action plan

The ongoing successes created by this new approach give marketers the digital maturity and business case justification to work on alternative targeting approaches that are zero party data-driven and first party data-driven lookalike models, segment-based audiences or contextual targeting methods to connect relevant ads to a specific audience.

After testing out campaigns using a second party data marketplace, we recommend a number of successive measures such as building a data management model framed around consumer-trusted and customer-controlled ID resolutions. The scope of the initiative and its resulting complexity, including long-term impact, mean that there needs to be a board-level conversation on revising data programs.

So as not to place all eggs in one basket, we recommend four simultaneous responses to survive the data depreciation of 2023:

  • The development of a first party data marketing stack
  • A renewed focus on D2C customer experiences
  • Upskilling key talent in the realm of digital literacy
  • Developing relationships with high-quality publishers, which the BCP second party data marketplace has already built in.

Based on our experiments with our own first party assets and those of large advertisers with an appetite for having first-mover advantage, we recommend starting small. Regardless of the size of the advertisers, media budgets and audiences, we recommend testing out scenarios with first party assets with a technology partner that can centralise, enrich, govern and scale their first party data toward a first party future.

This is the perfect time to test scenarios that blend first party, second party and third party data, the real-time impact of which can be an incredible learning tool for customer-facing teams and those seeking digital literacy upskilling. Advertisers and marketers have just two years left to be among the 1% of practitioners that have played with all three known forms of audience data, which can aid in future roles towards a governance level.

In A/B testing customer experiences across a range of first party assets, we have found that online audiences gravitate towards personalised content with the right message at the right moment, suggesting that advertisers must restructure existing customer experiences around millisecond-paced decisions.

Culture comes before strategy and we recommend using this lead time to develop an environment that encourages customer-oriented thinking. One such path to this mindset is the adoption of the Scrum-based product development model.