May 10, 2021
May 7, 2021

The future of digital creative in a cookieless world

Brady Akers
Head of Client Services

For the past 10 years or so, third-party cookies have been the driving force behind innovations in advertising technology. Programmatic advertising in particular has thrived largely thanks to the use of third-party cookies for audience segmentation, targeting/retargeting, measurement, dynamic creative optimization, and more. But all this is about to change.

While the last decade saw the rise of big data that allowed marketers to target existing and new customers in a manner that was highly tailored and personal, this data bubble is about to burst. With growing concerns over data privacy (46% of consumers feel they’ve lost control over their own data - Salesforce), data privacy laws are in the spotlight like never before and changes are coming quickly. The CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), Google’s announcement about removing all third-party cookies from Chrome, and Apple’s updates to iOS 14 are going to flip identity management as we know on its head.

So, what does it mean for the future of digital marketing? With all these changes being made to how customer data is gathered, shared, and used, effective digital marketing is about to get a whole lot harder. It’s been clear that these changes were coming for a while now, but Google’s rejection of ad-tracking and subsequent phase-out of third-party cookies was the canary in the digital coal mine.

For starters, you can kiss retargeting as-we-know-it goodbye. The cookiepocalypse is here and so is the end of user-level targeting. As brands begin to find their advertising ground in the cookie-less world, they will also need to remember that they will no longer be able to reach “identified users.” Until now, thanks to user-based targeting, brands could create a highly personalized message based not the brand’s identity but rather on who is viewing the particular ad. Brands will no longer have the liberty to be whoever they want to be in front of individual customers. 

Does this mean it’s time to hit the panic button? Maybe. These changes to identity management will limit the ability to put personalized ads directly in front of their audiences. Instead of mourning the death of the cookie, brand marketers need to shift their focus back to contextual targeting. While contextual targeting may not be a user-based solution like third-party targeting, it presents a key opportunity for brands and media buyers to focus on how their creative assets align with the environments in which they are placed.

In fact, some studies have shown that contextual targeting has been a more effective method of targeting than third-party cookies - it increases purchase intent by 63%, versus audience or channel level targeting; 73% of consumers feel that contextually relevant ads complemented their content or video experience, and 83% consumers are more likely to recommend the product in the advertisement. If brand marketers can continue to leverage contextual advertising to meet their customers in the right place at the right time, they will be able to successfully move past their dependence on third-party cookies to deliver meaningful messages at scale.


But including contextual targeting in your advertising strategy is only half the battle won. Your users are likely still ignoring your ads thanks to banner blindness - they find traditional banner ads to be disruptive, lacking intuitiveness, or annoying and boring. While there is no argument that ad placement is important, conveying an authentic brand persona  has become equally important. Your ad creative and context cannot work in silos. They need to work together seamlessly to deliver quality content and messaging to users and drive efficiency.

As marketers go back to the future with contextual targeting, they will need to create a unified brand experience across all channels and media. So, how can brands narrate their brand story through contextual advertising? The thing is - they are doing it on social media. Marketers are already heavily investing in social media to distribute authentic content  that  is highly engaging and true to their brand story. Fortunately, brands no longer need to stay confined to the walled gardens of social media. Thanks to Social Display, marketers can now replicate the user experience of social media and distribute it across the web using the reach of traditional display networks like The Trade Desk, Google Ads & DV360, etc.. It allows brands to utilize the treasure trove of creative content experiences from various social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and now even TikTok and distribute them across the Internet in a snap. 

It’s finally happening. The end of third-party cookies is here. Customers are taking back control of their data and brands must adapt.  Marketers need to start focusing on advertising strategies that are more relevant and less disruptive. By marrying the traditional relevancy of contextual targeting with innovative creative content experiences like Social Display, brands can succeed  by smarter, safer ways to forge meaningful connections with their customers.

Need help navigating the post-cookies world with Social Display? Get in touch with the experts at Spaceback.

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