Audience Activation: Start with First-Party Data

For many years, cookies have been an essential

component of digital marketing activations.

Cookies have allowed brands to leverage powerful

tactics across their media plans, from retargeting user

profiles based on interactions (e.g., site visit, click on

banner, abandoned cart) to extending their audiences

through lookalike modelling. The open and standardised

nature of cookies has also enabled many MarTech

players to thrive, creating a large choice of solutions for


Although the current deprecation of third-party cookies

undeniably disrupts how brands engage with audiences

online, alternatives are emerging.

Dentsu’s global leadership in search marketing has

enabled us to develop a unique understanding of

successful cookieless activation use cases over the

years. We can uniquely apply these insights to all other

forms of digital marketing going forward.

Cookieless audience-driven targeting solutions

The end of third-party cookies does not mean the end

of audience-based targeting. Tech platforms, publishers

and marketing solutions providers are actively

developing cookieless audience-based options.

Closed ecosystems: Large platforms like Facebook

and Amazon control the digital experience for users

and brands in closed ecosystems, wherein they use

exclusive audience data on signed-in users to

personalise ads. For advertisers, these ecosystems are

appealing because they offer a means to tap into this

accurate and unique user data, and even match

advertiser first-party data with tech platforms to

enhance personalisation and targeting. In a cookieless

world, it seems the large tech platforms will continue to

thrive in the marketplace, while smaller publishers and

platforms may lose their influence.

Publisher first-party data: While platforms like

Facebook and Amazon identify users via Personal

Identifiable Information (PII) such as email address,

most alternative publisher platforms still rely on

cookie-based technology to identify users and monetise

their advertising inventory. As they are now trying to

move away from their cookie dependency, many pivot

from an open access approach to a partially or totally

locked environment (i.e., asking the user to log in to

start browsing the website). For users, this pivot

represents a major user experience evolution (unlike

closed ecosystems where the experience is generally

frictionless or expected), and it is yet to see whether

people who log in to their favourite social and shopping

platforms will be equally willing to log in to their local

newspaper website. If they do, this will open new doors

for data partnerships between publishers and


Unique and Shared Identity Solutions (IDs):

Unlike publishers, many advertisers have already

invested in CRM solutions to secure relevant customer

information. Their challenge now is to connect this

information to identify users across environments -

without relying on cookies. This need for a shared ID

solution stems from each CRM solution acting in a silo:

even if it could be possible to rely on hashed user lists

(e.g., phone number), those solutions assume that the

same user is using the same phone number to access

both environments. To avoid any possible data loss

during this exchange, advertisers have started

conversations with publishers about setting up trusted

second-party data exchange. This interesting approach

could be valuable in the mid/long term, although it is

susceptible to the same privacy compliance issues

currently encountered by the use of second-party data

(i.e., appropriate user consents need to be obtained by

the party that collected the data, in order for that data

to then be shared with another "unknown" party for its

marketing activities). Some of these solutions

therefore seem to be more advertising-centric than

user-privacy focused, which presents the risk of simply

recreating the issues around cookies in a new form. It

is thus crucial to keep users at the centre and build the

solution around their expectations and preferences.

Contextual Targeting. Focusing on the type of content

people consume rather than a specific audience type is

nothing new. The concept of Google Search is by nature,

contextual. However, more broadly across wider

ecosystems like display and programmatic tactics, as the

Natural Language Processing technology powering

contextual targeting becomes more sophisticated, new

applications emerge, from fuelling strategic thinking to

informing content development, to ultimately activating.

To find more information on this topic download the dentsu report The Cookieless World - A Guide for the New Era of Digital Marketing 

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