Balancing Value Between Behavioral Targeting And Behavioral Attribution

Balancing Value Between Behavioral Targeting And Behavioral Attribution

by , March 10, 2021


Last week Google made a big announcement that essentially eliminated third-party behavioral targeting from its platforms.  I read the news and was certain the reverberations were being felt throughout the entire martech ecosystem. 

What about outside of that ecosystem?  To be honest, it barely registered as a blip in the day-to-day.

While we’re being honest, we all knew this was coming.  Third-party cookies have had a limited shelf life for some time now.  Unfortunately, there was still a large part of the martech landscape that depended on them for survival.  If you were one of those companies and you hadn’t made a new plan of action already, then you’re likely stumbling to find a new path forward.  Your time is limited.

As a marketer, none of this is a surprise — and in fact, I can still do targeted ad delivery with Google, Facebook, Linkedin and other key players in the walled garden landscape.  What’s more, the largest online advertisers were already testing out the FLoC model and looking for ways to keep reaching the same audiences they need to survive.  I may not be spending at the same level as the top 100 online advertisers, but I know I can still be targeted and still generate a highly positive ROI with the dollars I do spend.

Targeted online advertising is not going away.  The likelihood of us going back to contextual targeting and abandoning audience-targeted models is about the same as the average click-through rate going back to 2.5% in the U.S.  It’s simply not going to happen.  There’s far too much inventory and far too much first-party data to be leveraged. 

Targeted audiences may look slightly different — but being able to reach consumers based on their journey will still be a possibility.  Targeted ads based on search history are one key methodology that is not going away, and there’s far more that you can count on as well.

While we are being honest, most marketers that work with Google know they have to, whether they like it or not, so any announcement that changes the landscape tends to fall on deaf ears.  They are going to keep working with Google.  That’s just the way the world of online advertising works these days. 

In the early days, Google used to ask the agencies for a report card on how it was doing, took our feedback, worked that feedback back into its processes, and improved.  Then it got really big and stopped caring what we thought, since strategists knew they were going to get our business.  That is unfortunately the way things are today, so even an announcement of this size is just another speed bump for marketers.  They know they will have to roll with it and keep going forward.

What are marketers actually worried about?  More than targeting, marketers are still trying to unlock the value of attribution.  We may not be able to leverage broad behavioral data to target, but we really need to establish more standards for understanding the full customer journey and how to attribute value through that path.  Understanding the behavior that leads to a conversion is even more valuable than being able to target based on that behavior in the first place. 

There are many tools to choose from, each with their own merits, but I still find too much grey area between marketers when it comes to understanding attribution and how to properly leverage it for GTM needs.  Too many marketers still attribute value on first or last click.

So that’s my hot take, so to speak.  Third-party cookies are finally going away.  Behavioral targeting is now one-to-many, and Google still gets to take most of the dollars while the rest of the landscape finds a way to survive.  Sounds like another day in the life of online advertising! Search & Performance Marketing Daily


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