Data management platforms—whose third-party data has allowed marketers to target existing and new audiences for a decade—are facing an uncertain future.
The technology is vulnerable after Google said it will kill third-party cookies in Chrome by 2022. Other threats include a crackdown on data privacy, consumers who delete cookies or use ad-blocking software and other browsers that block third-party tags.
“They are going to try to evolve,” says Matt Kilmartin, CEO of Habu, a marketing technology company. “But the DMP as we knew it is a utility. And it’s declining fast.”
DMPs rely on data from third-party cookies—bits of text placed by websites on the hard drives of visitors—which track their browsing history and behavior. That's at odds with an industry moving toward a more direct relationship with consumers—engaging them personally on social media—and focusing on first-party data, such as a consumer's phone number captured at point of sale.
“Getting more first-party data has become a CEO initiative with major brands,” says Kilmartin, previously chief revenue officer of DMP Krux. “You can’t be a platform that uses data to personalize ads and be blind to identity platforms like Google and Facebook,” which capture nearly 60 percent of all ad spending.
Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle spent hundreds of millions acquiring DMP technology, once hailed as the single solution for a brand's data needs. Today those companies and others are rolling out customer data platforms, or CDPs, which use first-party data to help marketers foster direct relationships with customers.
The demise of DMPs isn't certain, says Anne Hunter, executive VP of strategy and growth at Kantar. “It won’t be CDPs win and DMPs lose,” says Hunter. “More so, it will be some of the characteristics that DMP deliver will be incorporated into CDPs. Some DMPs may eventually merge into CDPs as well. Regardless, there’s going to be a lot of change and impact.”
One of the biggest appeals of DMPs was their ability to create audience segments. But, Hunter says, marketers are now starting to create first-party audience segments in-house.
“There’s going to be a renewed emphasis with marketers on first-party segmentation,” says Hunter. “Marketers will build the segments themselves and look for activation cues that aren’t cookie-based."
Adam Solomon, chief marketing officer at DMP Lotame, says the impact of Google's decision to eliminate third-party cookies is overblown. Lotame has already adjusted to a world without third-party cookies following similar moves by browsers such as Apple Safari and Mozilla FireFox nearly two years ago, he says.
“When [Google’s Chrome] announcement came out, some said the DMP was dead,” says Solomon. “It was an oversimplification and just factually incorrect.”
Lotame has deals with publishers that help it capture first-party cookies, says Solomon, which won’t be affected by Chrome’s 2022 change.
The company is working with other data providers, such as the identity-focused Tapad, to build audience segments for marketers. Solomon acknowledges challenges, but says they can be overcome through partnerships.
“There will possibly be more partners in the future,” Solomon says. “You’re going to need a village of partners with different perspectives to bring datasets together and see what’s what.”