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Succession Planning: Investing in Future-Proofed Solutions for Reach and Measurement

Rebekah Kennedy, Director, Brand Partnerships

April 1, 2024 | 6 min read

The deprecation of third-party cookies is changing how brands reach audiences in an existential way. Drawing from my experience as a former lead data strategist for a CPG brand, I’ve seen firsthand how brands are hedging for this shift — and what more they can do to prepare. 

Irrespective of your brand’s category, marketers aim to reach consumers at key touchpoints along the purchase path and understand its impact on behavior. In browsers, this has historically been achieved through third-party cookies. Following Safari and Firefox, Google is starting to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome. This impending change and increasingly stringent privacy regulations necessitate a paradigm shift in how brand marketers approach marketing.

Here are five practical, tangible tips on what brands can do now to prepare for a cookieless future. And before you ask, as I’m tired of cookie-based analogies, I prefer to use one more aligned with the media landscape. What is better suited than an analogy to HBO’s Succession?

1. Channel Shiv: Cultivate Your Inner Circle

According to , nearly half of advertisers acknowledge that first-party activation holds the greatest promise in replacing cookie-dependent solutions. However, the benefit of first-party data doesn’t lie solely in activation. Like Shiv’s political prowess, first-party data can be used to better understand your customers and their interests. 

Why not pressure-test new creatives by giving your customers first access to exclusive events and asking them to create content for you? We all know that acquiring a new customer costs more than retaining one we already have, so leverage that special relationship by using your first-party data. Your customers are already bombarded with messaging – how can you use this valuable information to drive business outcomes? Think of it as building a war chest of information.

Once you engage with your customers, it’s time to grow your first-party data pool. While direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands can lean on their customer relationships to obtain meaningful first-party data, traditional brands and retailers can leverage physical activations, adding call-to-actions to advertisements, sweepstakes, and loyalty programs to access data for audience activation. When building out a data strategy, identify data gaps and find ways to fill them, be it with customer surveys or incentives. 

Tactical advice: Channel Shiv – take control of the room by understanding, auditing, organizing, and growing your customers via first-party data. Then, activate across different channels with partners that can provide scale and campaign measurement. Finally, use what you have learned to iterate and find valuable customer insights.

2. Be Like Frank: Leverage Your Existing Network and the Connections That They Have

In order for first-party data activation to be successful, audience size needs to be scalable across addressable media (easier said than done; take my word for it). 

Like Frank gatekeeping access to Logan, publishers own the relationship with consumers. Therefore, consider matching your brand’s first-party data directly to publisher inventory. Partner with publishers who own the consumer relationship, allowing you to pre-qualify audiences and maximize reach without compromising privacy. This approach enables scale by prequalifying inventory and preventing lower match rates. Additionally, there are sustainability benefits, as only vetted impressions are sent to your buying platform. Think of it as going grocery shopping with a curated list, not blindly grabbing whatever’s on the shelf. Frank isn’t going to the store without a list. 

By choosing sell-side partners with privacy-facing infrastructure and activation pipes, brands can maintain total control over how their data is used while powering their ads with maximal reach insights.

Tactical advice: Prior to launching, vet your technology stack – what data do your partners use? What do they do with the data? Is it shared with anyone else? How long is the data stored? How are opt-outs handled? What are match rate benchmarks? Ensure that you test onboarding data directly to your Supply Side Platforms. 

3. Evolve Like Roman: Adapt and Conquer

Whenever I hear “contextual targeting” mentioned, I’m taken back to the start of my programmatic career, where it was often used because little else was available. Like Roman, it couldn’t possibly be the solution we are looking for, right?

Applying Occam’s Razor, we should sometimes favor the simplest method. Suppose we know our consumers frequent specific environments based on their interests. In that case, we take advantage of today’s much more sophisticated contextual and sell-side audience-based reach and advertise our products there. Brands can now be present where their consumers are, based on activity canvassed across web pages, blogs, articles, and beyond – all at scale and powered by machine learning technology.

Tactical advice: Go beyond cookies by activating first-party data with premium publishers in brand-safe environments. If your measurement models rely on cookies, test alternatives now to prepare for the future.

4. Logan’s Legacy: Embrace the Future of TV

Logan, despite his flaws, understood the power of television. Connected TV (CTV) offers a similar advantage in a cookieless world. Unlike websites, CTV doesn’t rely on cookies. Advertisers can target audiences based on contextual factors like program genre, viewer demographics, and viewing time, offering relevant advertisements without individual tracking.

Tactical advice: See where overlaps exist between your first-party data and CTV channels. Prioritize activating with partners who reach the majority of streaming households with direct partner integrations. 

5. Kendall’s Retail Media Takeover

Just as Kendall saw an opportunity to revolutionize his father’s company, retail and commerce media networks are poised to do the same for brands in the post-cookie era. They offer accurate, deterministic data, independent of cookies. This sector has exploded in recent years, growing from . This year marks a turning point as retail and commerce media networks collectively venture beyond onsite to off-site and CTV, revolutionizing TV measurement for CPG and consumer brands. 

Almost as overwhelming as Kendall’s rap is the explosion of retail media networks (50+ in 18 months), all with various formats, buying channels, and measurement. 

Tactical advice: Advertisers are currently prioritizing 4 to 5 key retail and commerce media partners. Identify and map out your brand’s current sales channels – where do you have coverage? Where do you have gaps? What consumers do you want to recruit? Where are they spending their time? You can move into tactical implementation from this strategy work – prioritizing technologies with advanced omnichannel supply and audience data activation technology.

Ultimately, if you are a Succession fan, you’re watching and waiting for one character to reveal themselves and take over Waystar Royco. As art imitates life, we face the same outcome here – no single strategy will win, and it’s time to get moving. I advise you to establish task forces, timelines, and an executive sponsor who is able to channel Logan Roy and express the importance of assigning budgets to these initiatives.

Tags: Buyer

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