Track me if you can
- Google has outlined a two year timeline for Chrome to follow Safari and Firefox in phasing out third party tracking
- With the clock ticking down for third party cookies, the IAB predicts that mobile ad IDs will also be phased out
- The core of tracking and measurement for the digital advertising industry is changing fast
The internet wasn’t built with anonymised tracking and measurement in its architecture. Third party cookies worked for a while – but the scale and use of the internet is out growing them.
How should advertisers plan for these changes? And how will the architecture of digital advertising be rebuilt?
We have mapped out four key areas which digital marketers need to develop strategies for, and have then picked out key trends and likely next developments.
Four key areas for marketers to develop strategies around
Advertisers and publishers are already expanding their compliance teams. This will continue to grow and become a core part of the industry. It will be ever more necessary to ensure that partners, platforms and systems are collecting and using data legally.
Audiences and Ad Selection
Current signals used to optimise bids and select placements will either be phased out or aggregated to a much more anonymised level.
A second trend here is that audience and selection data will fragment across first party sources – from large to small, i.e. Facebook, the Times, Buzzfeed, local newspaper sites. New consent based networks and partnerships will try to achieve scale to at least compete with Google and Facebook, whose existing reach will solidify and adapt to changing regulations and privacy trends.
A whole suite of current click dependent measurements will become faulty or obsolete. Potentially, this strikes at a traditional strength of digital marketing – the accuracy of attributing spend to return – but this model has already been complicated by attribution conflicts, off-line interactions and the fact that there has never been a shared ‘single source of truth’ for omnichannel digital marketing strategy. Campaign phasing and ‘full funnel’ strategies will become harder, with Remarketing across sites the most obvious first casualty. For example, shares in Criteo hit a 52 week low after Google’s third party cookie announcement.
Click stream data is already interrupted, and the problem will grow. Advertisers are currently dealing with outage drops in Safari and Firefox path data. The immediate impact is on attributing conversions and goals back to ad clicks, no matter the attribution model. Across Kinase, we have modelled this and found that the longer the consideration window before purchase, the higher the drop-out rate in tracking is. Ad channel conversions end up being attributed to ‘direct load’ or ‘other’ because it’s more likely that the path has broken.
Fraudulent clicks, impressions, bots and unauthorized sellers are a constant problem for the industry, with new safeguards and measures unrolled within the major platforms and from the IAB Tech Lab. Changes in third party tracking also means the need to develop new ways to verify legitimate ad spend, transactions and traffic.
‘Privacy Pass’ tokens which preserve privacy through cryptography are currently being tested as Chrome and Firefox extensions supported by Cloudflare. Google and Facebook filter and verify activity in real time, and their dependence on algorithmic fraud alerts will need to be duplicated or shared in the wider network of publishers. New anti-fraud verifications and a shared ability to respond to new attacks and fraudulent ways of slicing revenue from the purchase chain will be crucial for maintaining trust in digital marketing as an industry.
“Advertisers will need transparency over how inventory is sourced,” says Richard Brooks, founder and director of Kinase. “The age of the black box and ‘the algorithm decides’ is over.”
“With the loss of third-party cookies, and potentially mobile ad IDs thereafter, the default future state of digital media will be 100 per cent anonymous, non-addressable to third-party vendors that support advertising-funded media and services today,” wrote Dennis Buchheim and Jordan Mitchell of the IAB Tech Lab.
Key trends and next developments
Fragmentation and consolidation
High profile data breaches and increased public concern over online privacy has created a new climate of regulation and distrust. While it seemed that Facebook and Google were on the back foot, new privacy protocols may actually strengthen these global platforms because they hold first-party data and unmissable inventory.
Newspaper and magazine sites also hold key first party data. Advertisers and agencies are increasing the frequency of direct relationships with partners deemed essential for a particular campaign’s objectives. Publishers such as
A fragmented landscape of walled gardens centred on those of Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple seems likely. What will be important is to select the right partners for each campaign, and to understand the difference between the properties and data held by each of these big four tech giants and by the smaller publishers and sites available.
Rise of ‘Data Clean Rooms’ and Encrypted Analytics
A counter to fragmentation is the rise of ‘data clean rooms’. In this context, these are used to aggregate first party data from different platforms to then match against each other to produce insights into reach, overlap and targeting. The data itself never leaves the room, so the process complies with privacy regulation. A key example is Unilever’s data clean room which has the backing of Facebook, Twitter and Google.)
The challenge will be to broaden access to the functionality of such bespoke and often expensive projects so that they can be used by smaller advertisers. Collaboration on new encrypted cross-channel analytics, which both preserve privacy while providing de-duplication and attribution modelling, will ensure that a future landscape of irreconcilable single-channel views is challenged.
Google Chrome and ‘privacy budgets’
Google are particularly invested in maintaining trust in online privacy. Alphabet properties contain user-facing services, and advertiser dependent revenue streams, both of which reliant on data. The announcement of third party cookies having a two year deadline on Chrome can be read as part of a bigger rebuild from Google.
Their early proposals are under the headline ‘Privacy Sandbox’- and they range across privacy tokens, cryptography, servers, API calls, referrers and IP address access.
A key thread from the Google side is the idea of ‘privacy budgets’. These will limit the number and the extent of the calls advertisers can make on tracking data. Google already has a threshold for anonymity in their data – to ensure that no one can be identified from a click or a tracked store visit, for example. This is set to increase to cover all of the access to their first party user data.
Your Digital Marketing Strategy
Optimisation within single channels will change in selection, targeting, and reporting. The challenge is for advertisers to adapt in cross-channel planning, buying and measurement.
Three steps around data and privacy which will be important for advertisers to action:
1. Select the right partners for each campaign – according to its goals and your compliance procedures
2. Understand the difference between the properties and data held by Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple and apply the level of cross-channel buying and analytics you need to achieve your goals
3. Combine this set up with the right data partnerships forged with smaller publishers and sites available
Kinase will keep working with our partners at Kenshoo and our agency teams channel-side to ensure that we can make the most of new strategies, delivery options and optimisation opportunities as privacy measures are unrolled across the industry.
Working omnichannel, Kinase will continue to analyse these changes and plan campaigns and strategies with our partners across this shifting landscape. We will consult and advise on different tech options, data partnerships and new standards available as they emerge and are applicable to our clients. Future Kinase Briefings, events and posts from the team will examine different channels and solutions in more depth.
It’s worth remembering that ecommerce is still in its infancy, and the potential for global growth remains huge. A rebuilt, secure architecture for ecommerce will enable it to speed up and expand – and we can be part of the conversation, growing as we adapt.
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