Digital Is Not (And Never Was) An Easy Button
In a cookieless world, the easy button is dead.
Long before acronyms like GDPR and CCPA, brands turned to the broad reach of ad networks and Facebook’s ever-knowing, ever-changing algorithm. Many gave it a blank check, seduced by the reach, click-through rates, and amassed conversions brought on by Wild, Wild West retargeting approaches. Brand safety wasn’t discussed.
Metrics were trusted because… you know… that’s what the platform reported. Few were brave enough to call out obvious discrepancies, like when actual sales didn’t correlate with conversion results. Or when the audience planning tool stated there were 55 million mothers in the United States one day, then 30 million the next. “The algorithm is just learning,” they would say.
This mentality fed right into the programmatic narrative: Learn as you go, let the data make the decision. Media planners, especially those who weren’t digital natives, were intrigued by the ease of it all. Innovation meant testing new programmatic vendors against one another. Success was measured by whatever metric was the easiest to track and achieve. The battle for last click and last impression attribution was in full force, customer experience be damned.
However, savvy programmatic practitioners have always understood there was no easy button. As budgets and channel options grew, those closest to the data started questioning things and taking action: layering on blacklists, implementing better data for prospecting, and smarter measurement strategies. This was possible because of the interoperability of cookies, giving them a robust (albeit incomplete) view of the user journey.
Fast forward to today. “Cookie-based identity is dying, taking the universal ‘language’ of DSPs with it,” according to a Forrester report by Joanna O’Connell, vice president and principal analyst. In many ways, we are facing many of the same challenges as the media planners of yesteryear, searching for an easy button where one doesn’t exist. If anything, today’s landscape is even more daunting to navigate, given the splintering of inventory and impending regulatory changes.
So where do we go from here?
First, we need to measure what matters. We need to stop looking to attribution models as the source of truth and instead evaluate incrementality. Research and measurement need to correlate with consumer behavior. As the industry’s reliance on Nielsen has exposed, let’s move on from archaic planning practices that have inaccurately measured audiences.
Second, we should, as Marc Pritchard succinctly put it at the ANA Media Conference) in March, “respect consumer data as their data.” This means taking a more transactional approach with the consumer, offering something of legitimate value in exchange for addressable targeting.
But most of all, allow yourself to use your intuition to make certain decisions. Be informed by the data of course, but even more so by the insights that data provides. Trust your instincts as a marketer to guide you through your next planning cycle, or your next major marketing decision. Bring a diverse group of people to the table, leveraging your collective wisdom to discover the best solution.