The digital advertising industry is at a crossroads. With third-party cookies going away, many innovations in the industry have surfaced to mitigate growing concerns about online security and privacy. 

And while there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for the post-cookie world yet, one thing is certain: there is a growing dependency on first-party data in the industry, and an acknowledgement that harnessing this pool of data is the only way forward in the cookieless future.  

The recent Programmatic Pioneers Connect Virtual Summit saw several leaders discuss these issues and the future of programmatic advertising. Moderated by David Harling, Chief Marketing Officer of APAC at MoneySmart, the all-star panel included:

  • Sonal Patel, Managing Director, Asia, Quantcast
  • Rose Huskey, CEO, South East Asia, Wavemaker
  • JJ Eastwood, Managing Director, Carousell Media Group
  • Abhishek Grover, Head of Digital Marketing Group, SEAO, Samsung Asia

First-party data strategies must be backed by intent discovery

As the industry comes to terms with the demise of third-party cookies, brands, agencies, publishers, and ad-tech vendors alike must now examine what their first-party data strategies are. 

“In the Asia market at least, the most powerful data we have is definitely ‘intent,’ which is driven by search. However, what we’re uncovering is that not all search queries are directly related to the intent users have,” said John-Jo.

“For example, when a new mobile phone model is released in the market, we’ll see searches for older phone models increase. That’s because people are searching for how much they’re going to get if they sell their existing phone.”

Even if brand marketers have a first-party data plan in place, they need to uncover the true intent and passions behind how their communities search, so they can work with publishers to connect with those communities. For that to happen, data needs to be in good shape.

“We’re working with most of our clients to enhance their first-party databases as a priority right now, a lot of which involves getting the data to a clean and usable state. It’s harder than it looks, but it’s a necessary first step,” said Rose.

One of the main challenges the industry is facing is to effectively harness data they do have across multiple channels—online, over-the-top (OTT), Connected TV (CTV), in-app, digital-out-of-home (DOOH)—and create a unified database, which can then be used to inform relevant messaging in campaigns.

First-party data is and will be critical in the cookieless world; however, it may be useful to look at second-party data collaborations to strengthen a brand’s data offering. 

“We’ve also observed plenty of conversations happening around second-party data collaboration, but there’s a lot of gray area in that aspect. Primarily, first-party data is going to lead a brand’s strategies in future-proofing programmatic—the investment decisions they make into agencies, and what tech platforms they use to execute their future campaigns,” Rose said. 

Are Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) the answer to the cookieless future?

As the digital landscape becomes more fragmented, with more channels for brands to collect customer data from, CDPs are becoming increasingly important in helping organisations navigate how multiple streams of data are linked and used. 

From a brand’s perspective, a CDP can help connect the dots between interest-based segments, layer a brand’s first-party data with richer behavioural information to drive more meaningful messaging to customers, and ultimately enhance campaign performance, according to Abhishek. 

“The future of advertising is going to be about creating cohorts of interest-based segments. At Samsung Asia, we see the role of a CDP as something that can help us enhance the collaboration between our own data, and the data we can get from multiple partners and publishers, to help drive campaign performance,” he said.

For ad tech, preparing for a cookieless future is ensuring that the right data assets are input into technology platforms (CMPs, CDPs, or otherwise), so valuable insights can be delivered (using technology such as AI, contextual signals, etc.).  

Big data has a few layers of complexity for organisations to navigate: volume (amount of data), velocity (how quick the data takes to assimilate into a system), variety (how the data is sourced), veracity (its quality), and value (how much that data is worth when cleaned and transformed). 

“Interest-based audiences are indeed very important; it’s what Google’s FLoC is trying to achieve. That’s why one of Quantcast’s focuses is examining contextual signals and using that to deliver advertising impact at the right time for our clients’ audiences,” said Sonal.

“For messaging to be relevant, it has to be meaningful. The only way to do this is to combine elements like contextual, modelling using the aforementioned layers of data, and also industry leadership. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution right now, but collaborative innovations (like UID 2.0 right now) may one day solve the issue with consumer privacy while allowing brands to scale through advertising,” Sonal said.

Measurement is another crucial topic for brands to consider in the cookieless future. 

For example, a huge chunk of global ad spend currently goes to terrestrial TV. However, the rise of CTV will push those ad dollars into the digital world. Measurement will change in the cookieless world, and brands need to have the right tools and ROI methodology in place to measure their success.

Fundamentally, CDPs are helping to transform how organisations use and see their collective data, but ultimately navigating a cookieless world means making the most of first-party data. This will heavily influence the tech and platform investments brands make to ensure they have the correct digital infrastructure to execute and learn from advertising campaigns.

How technology underpins the future of programmatic advertising

With a growing and evolving dependency on first-party data, businesses planning on advancing their programmatic strategies need to invest significantly in tech—that much is known. 

CDPs are a way forward for organisations to structure and connect data from different channels and touchpoints, but decision-making around ad tech and martech tools will centre on what brings the most value to a business’s audience.

“Brands need to articulate what they define as ‘value’ and work backwards from how this will translate to their audiences to thinking about what platforms to invest in,” said Sonal. 

For example, Asia is predicted to account for 40% of the world’s consumption (everything from digital to trade and luxury goods) by 2040. It’s also leading the world’s adoption of ad blockers, with 40.6% of users in the region using ad-blocking software. Knowing this, companies might then use tech investments to disrupt that system or create more value for their audiences in-app, where ad-blockers can’t be used.

“The future of customer experience is going to be shaped by people whose roles stem from a blend between what a Chief Information Officer (CIO) and what a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) does. Technology providers can then help them examine how to make execution and measurement work with goals that are focused on the customer experience. Because we’re one big ecosystem after all–consumers, advertisers, and publishers,” said Sonal. 

Platform investments aside, marketing and advertising professionals will also likely need to upskill significantly in their technical capabilities. 

Top 5 tips to future-proof programmatic strategies beyond 2021

  1. First-party data is king in the cookieless world. Now is the time for organisations to get on top of their first-party data strategy: how to collect, store, integrate, and utilise this valuable asset. Consider examining how second-party data collaborations can help strengthen a business’s data offering.
  2. Use data to figure out intent. It’s not simply about having the best and cleanest data; businesses also need to use the data they have to understand intent. Consumers want more relevant personalisation, and the rise of interest-based cohorts will also drive this trend. While first-party data is important, contextuality takes on a new level of importance in the post-cookie world, and emerging industry innovations such as UID 2.0 are worth investigating. 
  3. Know what you want from your tech before investing. CDPs are a big buzzword at the moment, but as with all tech investments, companies should first understand what outcomes they want from an investment. Do an audit on your technology stack, to determine what to invest in.
  4. Spend more time defining measurement. Newer digital channels such as OTT, CTV, and DOOH will be increasingly important in data collection for brands. Clicks are a metric commonly used to determine success in Asia and don’t always indicate meaningful conversions. Brands need to spend more time determining what metrics actually determine success and start to leverage metrics that show true value being added to their business–for example, driving sales.
  5. Evaluate what programmatic means to your business. With the industry largely exploring potential solutions that can work in the cookieless world, consider all opinions and spend time evaluating what value programmatic can really bring to your business.  What works for one business might not work for another; don’t overinvest too early and wait until you’re ready. 

To stay relevant and thriving in the digital future, businesses must recognise that programmatic investment needs to consider the evolving nature of the industry, and factor in the convergence of media technology with the roles that people play. 

A well-defined first-party data strategy alongside the right technology to translate measured outcomes can help businesses continue creating ad experiences that deliver value for their companies and consumers.

Learn More

For more on the importance of gaining consented first-party data, click here. You can also read our blog post on The Value of First-Party Cookies, First-Party Data, and Quantcast Measure

Finally, to learn more about the Quantcast perspective on major trends and solutions for the cookieless future, check out: In a World Without Third-Party Cookies, What Happens to Advertising on the Open Internet?