For 10+ years we have feasted on an endless supply of cookies for behavioral targeting, but major challenges with our Internet advertising diet are starting to show. There are legislative and privacy challenges; technology shifts, like browsers and mobile devices blocking 3rd Party cookies by default; and marketers themselves are feeling the pain of this diet as more and more channels are adding weight to their digital ad spend, so cutting out "empty calories" and tactics that don't produce results is a must. Make no mistake: Cookies are still one of the best ways for marketers to reach consumers online at scale. But marketers are starting to see the benefit of balancing their hunger for reach with a hunger for the quality of their audience.
So if cookies aren't as satisfying as they used to be, what can marketers do to bring more value to their efforts? I suggest adding a new exercise into their routines that will build solid brand muscle in the online space by utilizing marketers' PII-based lists and databases. It's called "direct matching." It's a newer digital marketing alternative to cookies, and it's something you should seriously consider. What is this new marketing exercise, you ask? It's really just direct marketing… but online and across channels if you're really working it.
A few strategic marketing companies have been working to proactively develop direct matches between their advertiser user-bases and publisher networks. These types of solutions avoid 3rd-party cookies by matching known individuals to publisher audiences, using 1st party PII from both parties. This enables specific messages to be delivered to unique segments online, with confidence. It allows advertisers to consistently reach specific audiences as known segments versus cookie pools, which are primarily built on behavioral inferences alone.
So how does direct matching work? Usually, the marketing brand (let's call them Sports-Shoes) supplies a list of known email addresses or prospects from their marketing database to their marketing service provider. This marketing service provider has a "safe haven" to protect Sports-Shoes' data and also works with one or more publisher partners (let's call one of them BuyMoreShoes.com) to pre-match the records from Sports-Shoes to the registered users of BuyMoreShoes.com to determine what percentage of the original list they can "find" throughout their network. The matched list is then used to target specific ads, created by Sports-Shoes' agency on BuyMoreShoes.com.
Note: As with all exercise, safety is important and marketers must take care to protect their data from injury via data leakage. No one wants to experience that!
So, what makes for a great direct matching solution in terms of leveraging data strength and building brand muscle? Simply put, three things: Accuracy, Reach and Trust.
ACCURACY here means the ability of Sports-Shoes' marketing partner to accurately match a significant amount of their user base to BuyMoreShoes.com's. This is accomplished by having lots of high quality data to use in the match process, including multiple email addresses and other digital identifiers like mobile numbers and physical addresses. A marketing service provider's access to both online and offline consumer information is fundamental because people often use multiple addresses, multiple phone numbers, and even different names when presenting themselves to online publishers.
REACH is all about the size of the available Publisher Partner network. If Sports-Shoes is ever going to reach the same quantity of people they can via cookie pools, direct matches will have to happen at scale between numerous publishers and a trusted neutral party. Networks built only on vendor-specific devices or email identifiers will challenge marketers to reach people across publishers and potentially create proprietary services that won't meet the marketer's needs long-term. Looking for a neutral-third party is always best.
Sports-Shoes also has to question if their marketing partner is focused primarily on display, or whether it crosses all channels, including display, mobile, social, email, direct mail and TV. Is it made up of premium publishers (the brands you can name off the top of your head), or is it filled with low nutritional value remnant properties? REACH is all about connecting with people wherever they are, and people are on all channels -- often times simultaneously. So working with a marketing partner that has relationships with the biggest and best publishers, across all mediums, is an absolute requirement for this exercise.
Finally, but equally important as the others, is TRUST. How much trust does Sports-Shoes have in their partner and their data management practices, since they are taking control of their client and/or prospect PII? Asking how they match with their partners, how many partners see the PII and how long they've managed sensitive information is a great start. You also need to consider how many different companies you will need to share that PII with to get the REACH we talked about earlier. The fewer companies you have to work with to onboard your 1st-party data, the better. Make sure the company has a Chief Privacy Officer who knows what's required now in terms of Industry Guidelines and Legislation, as well as being involved in shaping regulation in the future.
Have you had your fill of cookies and desire something else to go with your advertising staple? If so make the move now to a 1st-party data onboarding solution, balanced with direct match capabilities that can ACCURATELY find you the best customers and prospects and REACH them wherever they are. Before you start, though, make sure you TRUST that the right marketing partner will keep you safe. It will not only make you feel better about your cross-channel advertising diet, but will also help you build some more marketing muscle. And I suggest you don't wait until the cookie jar is empty…
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