Privacy, and the use of people’s personal data, has dominated industry news all year. Most of the headlines track how the ad world has reacted to Google's initial announcement that it would no longer service third-party cookies in its market-leading Chrome browser at the end of this year, followed by the tech giant's decision in June to delay third-party cookie deprecation until the end of 2023.
Despite Google's reprieve, the great privacy reset is coming, and for many it's already here. At the recent Ad Age Small Agency Conference, Elizabeth Brennan, Permutive’s head of advertiser strategy, joined Natalie Zfat, Ad Age Studio 30 contributing editor, to discuss how agencies should prepare for the end of “a world of centralized data” and the beginning of one built upon decentralized, first-party data.
Brennan urged advertisers to take advantage of this new data landscape now by forming strategic alliances with publishers/data owners and, of course, agencies.
In recent years, the value of agencies has been called into question, as many brands have either brought advertising in-house or expanded beyond the AOR model to hiring shops on a project basis (or both). However, Brennan pointed out that the pandemic has led to another reset, one in which agencies play a more critical role than ever in advising advertisers about where to advertise, who to target and how to shift their tone with the times.
A world of opportunities
“This can be a really daunting time for advertisers,” said Brennan. “So agencies have got the most incredible opportunity to support advertisers in helping them to find the new normal: the way they should be working.”
The difference maker between agencies, Brennan argued, may be the ones that "lead from the front by putting a line in the sand by saying: ‘We will deliver 80%-90% cookieless [data] by the end of this year, because this is what we believe in.’” By doing so, agencies will attract partners who are invested in the new future of data, aimed toward protecting consumers and safeguarding brands.
The new world of decentralized data presents hurdles, but also potential gold mines of marketing opportunities. For instance, a recent programmatic supply chain study found that for 15 advertisers to reach 12 publishers, the data went through 300 supply chains. Yet despite these surprising numbers, Brennan said that these stats illustrate the scale—citing a d-to-c mattress company as an example—but this doesn't mean that all data is bad.
Like many of its competitors, the brand was exclusively targeting more mature consumers seeking out orthopedic products at a moderate price point. However, by tapping into data that (unbeknownst to them) already existed, they discovered an entirely untapped market in pregnant women in their third trimester. These women struggle to sleep and find comfort, and were often in the market for a new, more supportive mattress. Without this first-party data, they would have been entirely unaware of a consumer base that had been searching for them all along.
By forming alliances with publishers and data owners who have a more intimate knowledge of their users’ interests and behaviors through first-party data, advertisers can access entirely new audiences. In turn, they can refine their creative strategy to cast a wider net among consumers, just as the mattress company was able to do with pregnant women.
“It’s not just about finding an audience,” Brennan pointed out. “It’s about understanding them—and what’s important to them as well.”
The ultimate key to success in the data reset era is trust.
According to Brennan, one in five customers have already switched brands because they don't trust how their data is being used. (Unsurprising, because the way that privacy disclaimers exist now, it would take a user an average of 250 hours to read the novel of terms and conditions for all of their online services.) By first understanding the privacy preferences of a brand’s customers and building a policy accordingly, the consumer will feel more at ease knowing exactly what is being done with their data.
And when it comes to language, Brennan said, simplicity is key: Write privacy explanations in layman’s terms with the brand’s tone of voice to establish a sense of personability and clarity. If you, the marketer, can’t understand what it implies, then neither will the consumer.
The privacy reset is in full force, and agencies can lead the charge in guiding brands and advertisers into the new era. Building strategic partnerships is more critical than ever, as these relationships will become much deeper than a simple advisory value exchange. When it comes to standing out from the crowd as an agency, rushing to the front may determine your future success.