Marketers seek adaptability amid a fragmented post-cookie landscape

Marketers are increasingly hemmed in by the rising tide of privacy laws across the globe, plus multinational corporates’ preference for a tighter grip on the technology they use forcing them to seek flexibility.

The signals marketers have traditionally used to both target online audiences and track the efficacy of such activities are on the wane as epitomized by the sunsetting of third-party cookies in the Google Chrome browser and Apple’s diminution IDFAs on iOS. 

In the wake of such signal loss, an abundance of replacements have flooded the market with certain technology labels, such as “data management platforms,” losing favor among some, given the perception that they are associated with third-party data. 

In parallel, overlapping technologies are entering the fray with more than a third of all marketers piloting new technologies last year for this reason, according to a survey by Gartner. Additionally, the same survey depicted the average respondent as allocating a quarter of their entire marketing expenditure on such technologies last year. Further still, disagreements remain as to what actually constitutes de rigueur technologies, think “customer data platforms” or  “data clean rooms.”

For instance, it was only recently that the IAB Tech Lab issued a series of tech standards of data clean room technologies for public comment — see more here — with the trade body hoping its latest initiative will promote interoperability among the current vendors pushing their wares on the market. Many hope it will prevent a scenario whereby a new product category is dominated by the industry’s Big Tech players, such as Alphabet and Amazon.    

It’s a scenario that is challenging marketers, not to mention publishers, as the skillsets required to operate such utilities, not to mention the legal basis they have for using any available technologies, are not always readily available.  

Anthony Katsur, CEO of IAB Tech Lab, recently told Digiday the current paradigm presents marketers with a “conceptually complicated challenge,” particularly as they seek to ensure that consumer consent is honored throughout their supply chain. 

“There are more vendors than ever before that you’d have to interconnect with,” he commented, adding the contemporary marketing stack requires a “portfolio approach.”  

Katsur further commented, “Things like your CDP have to connect with no less than half-a-dozen vendors, then you have to ensure your supply-side platform has an integration with your demand-side platform, and ad server, on the other side.”  

On top of this, more centralized technologies such as CRM systems, DMPs, and data clean rooms (whatever the industry eventually agrees they are) also have to be taken into consideration. 

It was observing the current dynamic take shape over the past three years that led MadTech Advisors CEO Bob Walczak to conceive of and launch his MadTech Connect. An offering his consultancy claims can help companies laden with otherwise ungainly tech stacks integrate between platforms. 

“So far, most connection between platforms and audience enrichment, attribution and targeting etcetera has all been cookie-based,” he explained, adding that the erosion of cookies now requires direct platform integrations. 

Theoretically, this sounds simple, but multiple sources within brand-side marketing departments explained the complications involved with Digiday, particularly as many seek to bring more of their online marketing activities in-house. 

Separate marketer sources, all of whom requested anonymity given their employers’ PR policies, noted how privacy requirements such as GDPR meant their legal teams are mandating a more buttoned-up approach which, oftentimes, requires such direct integrations between platforms. 

“Because you have to make sure that audience consent is respected with the company that you’re integrating with, it can become harder, and you have to restrict the number of companies you’re working with,” added one source from a multinational brand holder. “That means you have to take on more work yourself, and you don’t always have the skillsets to execute [and] this can really delay progress.” 

MadTech’s Walczak further explained some of the intricacies involved, which eventually lead to headaches for marketing teams, particularly as the current milieu requires API integrations, a prospect that fills many marketers’ hearts with dread. 

“A lot of this is happening on top of their current infrastructure, and instead of being able to transfer data through cookies, what’s happening is that first-party data has to connect directly from platform to platform which means you have to have integrations,” added Walcazk. “We were spending some time doing platform integration work, and connecting these systems for clients rather than doing strategy and looking what they would output.”    

The intention of MadTech Connect is to act as a “universal connector” between different platforms according to Walczak — who was formerly the GM of BidSwitch, a tech layer that essentially performs similar facilitation between buy- and sell-side ad tech.

“The thought occurred that instead of having to build a connector over and over again to connect two platforms,” he added, “we essentially build one connector… and then connect their systems through toggling.” 

In an emailed statement, Liz Salway, a media executive with experience working with multinational corporations’ online marketing teams, explained that many international marketing outfits are moving from “monolithic tech stacks to multi-platform ecosystems.” 

This is oftentimes governed by local necessities — for instance, the legal requirements in one market may practically mean it’s best to use a particular piece of technology in that one geography only.  

Although, such an approach can be awkward, not to mention expensive which often makes it difficult to demonstrate ROI, particularly as trade orgs are challenged with establishing consensus on tech standards.  

“There may not be many commonalities between two brands operating in two very different spaces — a CPG compared to a luxury retailer for example — but they will both want access from the same enterprise solutions to clean rooms, martech stacks and their data,” added Salway. “Creating a master connection to enable this will go some way to providing a much quicker, less costly way of connecting the various dots in most marketing use cases.”

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