The cookie is dead: Long live identity graphs

The cookie is dead: Long live identity graphs Carolyn Corda is CMO at ADARA.

Despite being the backbone of programmatic advertising since the launch of the first banner ad in 1994, the third-party cookie’s reign is set to come to an end. In under a year’s time, Google is planning on following competitors such as Mozilla and Apple in eliminating the cookie from its browser.

The death of the cookie represents a fundamental change in how marketers interact with and personalise messages to consumers. Tracking how people browse the internet, third party cookies produce valuable insight that marketers and publishers have used to create targeted ads based on individual behaviours.

The ability to track users across platforms, in a cookieless future, might therefore seem a daunting challenge to marketers looking at how they can keep their comms relevant and targeted. For those that are unprepared, they will find it almost impossible to deliver personalisation, as data becomes limited to activities within the walled gardens, or limited to first-party data on sites with log-ins.

While cookies were never a perfect solution for marketing, consumers came to expect even occasionally tone-deaf personalised marketing messages as the baseline in most communication. Despite its flaws the death of the third party cookie will have a dramatic impact on unprepared marketers. The ability to send the right message at the right time is key to the success of many businesses and without personalising ads, companies will lose ground to competitors that have put the groundwork in to ensure they no longer rely on a cookie-based model. Research has found that 42% of consumers are annoyed when content isn’t personalised – with or without cookies, it is now the baseline expectation for businesses.

The reign of transparent data

While the demise of the third party limits the amount of data marketers can use, it also opens doors for them to evaluate how they collect data and how they reach consumers more broadly. With Google’s third-party cookie ban coming as a result of stricter data regulations imposed by the EU and the United States, businesses should use more sustainable data sources in order to fuel personalisation efforts.

The bar for sustainable and ethical data is rising. Ethical data is data obtained using transparent means; collected from consumers with the consent that it will be used for marketing purposes and with the understanding that they will receive value in exchange for sharing their data. This gives consumers confidence that their data is being held and used securely and ensures the relationship is transparent and morally sound.

To access the required levels of ethical data for personalisation while maintaining data integrity and accuracy outside the third-party cookie universe, the natural step is to look to a data consortium – much like ADARA. Data consortiums share non-identifiable data from a number of different sources, with an owned data rights management platform that gives the data owner control over when and where it is used. This allows marketers to obtain a more rounded and full picture of consumers as they interact with multiple brands.

Using that data to build identities

Data isn’t enough on its own. Only by comparing data with other sources can marketers target consumers effectively, as the relationships between data can help advertisers build individual identities. Moving to an identity-based strategy is crucial in a post-cookie world.

Identities are created by layering a series of data points on top of first-party data and then connected into a single, anonymised profile. The resulting profile is called an identity graph. While the use of identity graphs is relatively new to the data industry – there is no current market standard for building out those identities into a single, unified graph – they are important in producing the individual insights needed to fuel personalisation.

Identity graphs can be varied and altered depending on data imputed into the profile. For example, an identity graph filled with travel data will have different insights into a consumer compared to an identity graph focused on the retail sector. Marketers are therefore able to mix and match the data they need for their targeted group.

With the reign of the third party cookie coming to end, marketers need to explore new data methodologies such as identity graphs to power their marketing. While marketers may initially find it difficult to change their current practices, they will find that those that have prepared and explored the use of more ethical and transparent data will reap the benefits in the long run.

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

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