The Analytic Apocalypse

The most recent releases of browsers, Mozilla’s Firefox, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Google’s Chrome will have the capacity for consumers to control which cookies they will permit to have access to their information. Although each browser has a differing strategy to enable consumers to identify and manage “good” and “bad” cookies, they all put consumers in control.

At the same time, new bills have been introduced in congress that, if passed, will greatly limit what information cookies can track and how 3rd party cookies can interact with browsers / users.

What does all this mean? For advertisers, and publishers that rely so much on cookies to better understand consumer interaction with brands and content, this worst case scenario – no third-party tracking – can greatly impact the way we analyze advertising and content performance. It will be a sea change in the industry.

Here’s what a worst-case scenario would look like. Republican legislators need a solid consumer-friendly win right now and go after everyone’s favorite punching bag, the advertising industry. Meanwhile, the next version of browsers come out later this year with cookie-blocking capabilities installed.  These browsers represent more than 90 percent of the total US browser market.

Let’s assume for the moment these both happen. What can advertisers and publishers do in this brave new world?

This scenario will make owning consumer relationships totally paramount. For advertisers, further investing in systems that create and enhance our direct connections with consumers will be mandatory. Adding how consumers interact with our brands (behavioral data) will need to supplement existing CRM technology. Advertisers will need to combine media, consumer and behavioral insights into a single analytic system to better understand advertising success. Those that do this will have a long-term competitive advantage.

For publishers, building direct connections with their audience will be the long-term strategy that enables better monetization of inventory. Using audience insight will allow publishers to create custom advertising packages and increase the revenue per impression. Publishers will need to invest in systems that marry audience insight and media consumption with inventory management to obtain the most revenue for your organization.

For ad networks and DSPs, re-engineering data collection methods will be a requirement. Transparency between network and consumer will need to become real. Trusted networks will need to brand themselves to create a direct opt-in with consumers. This will be an expensive proposition.

Next, all company must develop non-cookie-based analytic models. In our brave new world, our reliance on third-party cookies will no longer be permitted. Advertisers will need to create models that can connect advertising campaign results to website traffic and landing pages without the use of cookies. Advertisers will need to ask themselves can if their current optimization models do that. Most likely not. Methods, the mathematics and data models will need to drastically change to optimize our online programs effectively.

Publishers will need to create an infrastructure that takes their first-party data (registered users) and in-house build out audience segments to provide advertisers “behavioral” or “contextual” targets. Ideally, publishers will connect this new audience knowledge with inventory management to improve top-line revenue. Partnering with external network becomes less attractive since these are considered “the tracking components” under scrutiny.

For ad networks and DSPs, they will need to have, or support existing non-cookie based analytic models, coming from advertisers and publishers. APIs will need to be written to get audience / consumer insights in and out of their existing systems and networks.

Finally, advertisers and publishers will need to develop knowledge-sharing platforms that can translate insight and ad-performance across organizations without using consumers’ Personal Identifiable Information or that are reliant on cookies. A highway will need to be built that can manage both panel and behavioral insight in a universal manner. Advertisers will need to plug in their own insight into this highway to better understand advertising results and ROI. Publishers will need to plug-in their own tools to connect the highway to their own inventory yield systems to better monetize their assets.

The path towards no more third-party cookies is starting now. The belief that politicians would never take such a drastic step is more of a hope than a strategy. The legislative process around “Do Not Track” has begun. Browser makers have empowered consumers with blocking technologies that will only get more sophisticated and easier to use. The genie is, in many respects, out of the bottle. To mitigate business risk, companies — advertisers, publishers and third-party networks — must begin o create, develop, and test non-cookie-based insight and intelligence systems to ensure they are ready for the analytics apocalypse of no third-party tracking cookies.

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