Recently, Campaign India caught up with Iván Markman, chief business officer at Verizon Media. In his interview, he discusses the ‘crumbling cookie’ in digital advertising, what the solutions to replace the humble cookie look like amid increasing privacy and data concerns, and the kind of future publishers and advertisers are looking at in the next one or two years
The most obvious question first – what does the future of digital advertising look like in the face of the ‘crumbling cookie’, and privacy and data concerns?
The deprecation of cookies and identifiers makes one think of a very grim future where publishers cannot monetise their sites or apps. Resultantly, they can’t provide the same value to consumers who might not be getting the same quality of content and access, as we know it. For advertisers, this means unable to connect with consumers with the right message at the right time.
Having said that, whenever as an industry we have faced some of these challenges, we have come out of the other side with creation and innovation.
What must brands do with data to thrive, going forward? How can they leverage the data they have within their businesses and first-party data to become less reliant on cookies?
I’m for ‘people-first’ solutions. If someone is offering me a service that is valuable, free and giving me relevant offers from their end or other advertisers but needs to use my data and leverage my interests, I’ll be okay with that. Especially if they ask for feedback, let me change my settings and give me control. The other way for consumers is by subscribing to services.
There is a clear role now for identifiers that have consumers’ consent and which are clearly understood by them. However, this may not work like cookies in the way they are currently implemented; the whole issue with third-party cookies at the moment is they’re hard to govern. It’s important to be respectful to consumers and do it the right way.
Would you elaborate a little bit on how cookies will be different?
Last year, we announced the launch of our cookie-less solution – Verizon’s Connect ID – that’s based on first-party consumer relations. We, as publishers, might have a print ad, other mail or news, for instance, where consumers may register, consent to data usage, and get access to our privacy dashboard. We are publishers with first-party relationships, and we also have relationships with other publishers who may have the same mindset. What happens is, as common consumers of both publishers we have collective permissions now with consent that can be used across to show consumers relevant advertising. This is one big way forward.
How can brands leverage the data they have within their businesses and help first-party data become less reliant on cookies?
Now is the time to test and learn. Several advertisers are trying to build more direct relationships, whether through loyalty cards or some incentives. Essentially, it’s picking up on the ‘people-first’ view; consumers need value in exchange for establishing this relationship.
The other thing is experimenting with ways of using that data. One way of using it by adopting Connect ID. The other one is in case we don’t have that data, but an idea of the kinds of segments that we’re targeting.
Around the world, we have very rich and diverse state data. That information is not necessarily attached to an identifier. We see the impressions, but because the information is connected to consumer behaviour, we think of it as localised and trace it. We have to do it using identity or otherwise as our next generation contextual solution. Hence, another thing that advertisers can do is this: if they don’t have that data they can still begin to build more of these next-generation contextual solutions that, from a targeting standpoint, will enable them to get a sense of the consumer.
What would you say is the first step for an advertiser who’s trying to figure this new ecosystem out?
Set your goals. While advertisers might be trying to learn more about consumers and get first-party relationships in place, they might also want to try different kinds of targeting. The second piece is defining the test-and-learn road map. Or it may be a combination of trying to get some data that helps them and then connecting the dots around the world. Finally, they must identify solutions that will help them activate in their media and campaign Ads. Make sure you learn, go back and keep improving that cycle.
What are the kinds of metrics that digital advertising will have to employ in the future?
Suppose an advertiser is targeting a particular segment – female sports enthusiasts – based on third party cookies. We can then measure how many impressions they might have delivered to that segment and how many bought the product.
In a world where third-party cookies are going away, that whole set of targeting and execution cycle may break. The alternative might be something like Connect ID, or a method that uses contextual impressions for the first bit. And then, for the attribution, they can use more statistical methods; look at how many people are buying from their site, and try to use more statistical analysis.
The lay consumer has no idea what’s going on behind the scenes, especially with all the legalese thrown at them. What does the end-user see once all the changes are implemented in the future?
This is where I go back to the ‘people-first’ view. And why it’s important to explain things in simple terms. I sense that consumers will get bombarded with new messages because publishers and advertisers are also testing and learning newer methods; they are figuring out how to communicate these changes to consumers.
In Verizon Media’s case, we have been evolving our privacy dashboard; we realised that our former one was confusing and technical. I am a lot happier with where we are now, but I think we still need to keep improving it. And the same stands for the industry.
In the near term, there’s probably going to be more confusion, however, as we figure it out we will eternally be a bit more human and natural.
What are some of the strongest contenders to replace the cookie?
At the moment, there is some form of persistent ID if you look at the industry at a higher level; think of this as the next-generation cookie. One of the things we haven’t spoken about here is that a lot of the IDs were inspired by web browsers and mobile operating systems. However, consumers are consuming more digital content everywhere on TV, and even on digital billboards. And those aren’t necessarily impacted by the same consideration. A part of the next-generation identity solutions will connect a lot of those other screens, too.
One solution is persistent identity solutions, and Connect ID is one example of that. A second one is some form of a cohort – a group of identifiers in a place trusted by the ecosystem. People will then communicate with them rather than on a one-on-one basis.
A third might be next-generation contextual solutions with no identities – using other signals to try to replace the identity with contextual solutions. These are the three broad buckets as I see them.