Driving outcomes, measuring what matters and building a better future. We catch up with Peter Birch, Hybrid Theory's UK Managing Director, to discuss where we stand as we move towards a cookieless world.
As IAB Europe publishes its updated guide to the post third-party cookie era, how prepared are agencies and advertisers?
Everybody's had plenty of time to prepare, but inevitably, some are more advanced than others. We all know third-party cookies will die; it's just a question of exactly when. Now's the time for businesses to ensure they have a clear strategy and delivering bespoke customised audiences whilst capturing consumer attention across digital environments at scale.
And while there's much talk around adopting test and learn approaches to compare.
cookie-based targeting against non-cookie-based, we should be past this stage. We certainly are, and we know what works, so now it's all about executing and delivering tailored solutions for our clients.
Based on your experience, what should companies be focusing on?
It depends on their objective. For brands concentrating on awareness, delivering reach and accessing broad audiences is key. While data offers them deeper targeting and behavioural insights, it's not their priority. But for a performance business, data and targeting are critical.
Our starting point is always the same: what is the client trying to accomplish, and how do we build a strategy to achieve this? It is not about obsessing over cookie-based or non-cookie-based audiences – it is about results.
We're in the business of driving outcomes which comes down to Return on Ad Spend. This is what CMOs care about. As long as the solution is transparent, delivered in a compliant way and achieves its goals, they're not concerned about viewability, completion rates, or if it's cookieless or not. They just want to sell more product and our role is to provide them viable solutions.
For those clients wanting to wean themselves off cookies now, we're delivering them non-cookie-based strategies. But for many others, we don't distinguish between cookies and non-cookies but focus on building hybrid solutions that achieve their goals today and drive the best results possible.
So have we been focusing on the wrong KPIs?
It comes down to who you're talking to. We work with brands and agencies, and the conversations are entirely different.
With brands, it's about their business goals and looking to understand their challenges. For agencies, though, the focus is on measuring success around their client's campaigns, and they're more reliant on the traditional industry metrics. But many of these weren't designed to be KPIs, and they’re simply hygiene metrics to help people navigate the digital ecosystem. As these ' perverse KPIs have become increasingly relied on, we're in danger of measuring the wrong things and losing what matters to CMOs. For example, your ads may be 100% viewable but were they seen by anyone.
We enable all the key measurement metrics for our clients and then go deeper to deliver actionable human insights designed to achieve specific business goals.
Do you see the death of cookies as a positive for digital advertising?
I certainly do. Cookies were never intended to track consumers, but they've become the bedrock of digital advertising. Yet they're found wanting in so many areas, not least from the consumer's perspective, which led to ad blocking becoming the biggest consumer boycott in history. Consumer sentiment, ad blocking, industry developments and government legislation are all driving the deprecation of the cookie.
While digital advertising has changed beyond recognition, we're still reliant on a decades-old technology to underpin it. This is an opportunity for a reboot and for the industry to work together to deliver a better solution. Collectively we can make a meaningful change, not the least for consumers who have lost trust in advertising.
With so many proposed solutions to replace third-party cookies, do you think there's a need to align around just one?
Yes, and this is the industry's number one challenge. Otherwise, we'll end up with several well-intended solutions that are better than cookies but not for advertisers and agencies.
If you're a buyer or planner, do you want to work across multiple platforms, develop creatives to support each one and access different reports that give you opposing insights? No, because it's a nightmare to manage, and this is why we need a standard, universally accepted solution.
It requires industry collaboration and collaboration works. I saw this at ITV. When digital began stealing TV budgets, the commercial players realised they needed to stop attacking each other and come together to protect the industry. This led to the creation of Thinkbox to help advertisers get the most out of TV.
Yes, there are many more players involved in digital, but there's a lesson here. By working collectively, we can develop an approach that benefits everyone.
So, the future's looking bright for digital advertising?
It is, and we should all look forward to a new era of openness and transparency. Hybrid Theory is focusing in this area as we know it's what clients and consumers are craving. We'll see a greater focus on privacy by design for consumers, which can only be good as it helps build trust. And while trust in advertising is creeping up, the industry still comes way down the pecking order compared to other sectors.
Ultimately everyone will benefit unless you're a black box solution lacking transparency around your data and how you operate. But again, this is another positive!