Matt Rivard
Feb 18, 2024

Are you really ready for a new era of privacy-centric marketing?

New privacy regulations are changing the digital advertising game forever—Google shares three ways brands can play, and win, under the new rules.

Photo: Getty Images.
Photo: Getty Images.

This is the year to get uncomfortably excited as a digital marketer. We’ve been talking about industry shifts, like Chrome’s third-party cookie deprecation, for some time. That process is already underway, and completion is just months away.

Over the years, people have grown increasingly aware (and frankly, concerned) with what personal data is collected, how it’s used, and who it’s being shared with online. But they also say they prefer content and ads experiences that are tailored to them. In fact, 66% in Canada are likely to visit the brand or products website after viewing ads that are personalised to them.

Now it’s time to take a hard look at your ads' privacy strategy and get a realistic picture of how much you may still rely on legacy technology, like third-party cookies. 

Businesses who provide relevant ads and privacy-forward experiences can differentiate themselves. And those who don’t may lose customers: 45% of Canadians surveyed said that a positive privacy experience with their second-choice brand would lead them to switch from their first-choice brand.

What’s around the corner

The next six months are going to require more industry collaboration and flexibility as we all navigate an evolving landscape. 

New privacy regulations around the world will go into effect, and all of these laws create an increasingly complex compliance journey that advertisers and publishers of all sizes will need to navigate.

What’s more, Chrome also intends to begin phasing out third-party cookies in the second half of 2024 and as of January, has begun testing Tracking Protection—a new feature where as you browse the web, third-party cookies will be restricted by default, limiting the ability to track you across different websites.

While major platform shifts may be daunting, they’re certainly not new. We’ve been here before. Think of the pivot to mobile. Initially, many marketers ignored the consumer shift, and resisted the change partly because the tools we used on desktop simply didn’t work on mobile at the time. Finally, marketers embraced where people were headed, unlocking an unprecedented period of growth and innovation for businesses.

But to get to where we need to go, we can’t use the same methods that got us where we are today. That begs the question: Are you really ready for what’s next?

Here’s how to prepare for this year and beyond—right now.

Reset your mindset

Today’s era of digital advertising requires a new approach. Marketers need to shift from “precision” to “prediction” to deliver results at scale. 

As marketers, while our fundamental marketing goals of driving awareness, intent, and sales aren’t changing, the ways you achieve these goals are. We’re building new technologies to deliver advertising performance without privacy compromises. Google’s approach centres on first-party data, AI, and privacy-preserving technology. 

What we’ve traditionally come to expect in how we reach and re-engage audiences, as well as measure campaign performance, have already been changing, and will come to a head in very short order.

What does this all mean in practice? Lets think about remarketing. Arguably it’s been one of the catalysts for people’s concerns about privacy online, because they’re perceived as following people across the web. In a world without third-party cookies, standalone remarketing campaigns are unlikely to achieve the same scale as today without additional technology like AI. 

Create a durable strategy with three key ingredients

Now with a new mindset, it’s time to take stock of your strategy.

We’ve been talking about the importance of adopting privacy-centric, durable strategies and solutions for years, but we’re now at the point of no return. I mentioned Google’s recipe to privacy-centric marketing and recommend that advertisers and publishers adopt similar techniques based on their business goals.

  • Strengthen your first party data strategy: In a constantly evolving landscape, building and strengthening your first-party strategy is more important than ever, especially as consumers move from device to device and are harder to reach. CPG giant PepsiCo was able to grow its first party data by 50% by focusing on offering value in exchange for being trusted with people’s data and building long term relationships.
     
  • Lean into AI-powered solutions: AI-driven tools require less data to make predictions and fill in the gaps for unknowns to help you optimise for your campaign goals. Kiehl's used Canada as one of the first markets to test Performance Max—which enables advertisers to use all of Google's ad inventory and formats —and the results were significant. The cosmetics company saw a 78% increase in return on ad spend and a 49% increase in revenue on its Kiehl’s brand from leveraging the AI-powered tool.
     
  • Test and implement privacy-preserving technologies: Marketers should use tools that enable this new privacy-preserving tech, like tagging. On the flip side, ad tech providers should start testing the Privacy Sandbox APIs and other privacy-centric tech now to find the best outcomes for your business. Our Ads teams are testing the Privacy Sandbox relevance and measurement APIs, just like many others in the industry, and shared promising results from our interest-based advertising (IBA) test last April.

These results shouldn’t be taken as an unequivocal indicator of Google’s IBA performance post-third-party cookies. We intentionally compared the performance of third-party cookies against a broader suite of signals. That’s because we believe the Privacy Sandbox is a signal, not a standalone solution. 

The time to act is now

Marketers who think the end of third-party cookies is far in the future are already behind. If you don’t act now, you’ll be at a disadvantage.

The companies that have started to embrace this new mindset shift and privacy preserving techniques are already starting to see gains. Put bluntly, privacy is good for business. What they’ve shown is it’s important to test and learn now to figure out what works best and make adjustments.

Regardless of where you stand, the landscape has already changed. Third-party identifiers are deteriorating fast.

It’s time to embrace the change and enter a new period of innovation and growth—together. 


Matt Rivard is director of strategy and product for Google Canada.

 

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