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Yaron Galai, co-founder and CEO, Outbrain

Google’s recent news confirming that the search giant does not plan to continue support for identifying users for ad targeting purposes (outside of targeting on its own properties) generated a wide range of reactions across the ad industry: frustration, anxiety, denial and downright panic. 

A healthier response is relief coupled with excitement over the coming opportunity. Third-party cookies grew beyond their initial intended use and were used in unintended ways. Now, as the industry swaps an old hack for new solutions, this creates a chance to explore new and exciting opportunities in the advertising field. However, many of those opportunities will take time, while the need to pivot from cookies will be immediate. 

For instance, brands have begun exploring first-party user data in their advertising campaigns. Utilizing existing CRM systems and CDP platforms ensures that brands can deliver targeted marketing and sales collateral to their existing customer base. 

Other brands are taking a wait-and-see approach before properly assessing how they can best manage their transition to a cookieless future. While there is a time and investment component that needs to be considered for this transition, there is also a risk to these brands, as they will be playing catch-up if the market moves quickly.

For brands to successfully launch effective targeting campaigns in a post-cookies world, they need to consider two factors: context and interest. Rather than generating an instant user profile, brands can build a deeper understanding of users by using technologies such as AI and machine learning to analyze clicks and engagements on a publisher network. 

Harnessing this data will allow marketers to avoid rudely promoting a product or service and instead ensure that marketers can implement more effective communication strategies by presenting consumers with quality recommendations and content aligned with a reader’s tastes. 

As third-party cookies dwindle, publishers and platforms with massive data sets — collated by using tech such as AI — can provide marketers with data pools that they can use to supplement their first-party data efforts

Of course, if there’s one objection to anticipate, it’s regarding direct response advertising. Companies that have excelled at retargeting shoppers on the web have long relied on cookies. That’s true, but increasingly consumers are revealing, through their words and actions, just how much they dislike being followed around the web by invasive retargeting messages. 

If marketers have learned anything from the death of the cookie alongside increased attention on consumer privacy and opt-out choices, it’s that listening to consumers should be every brand’s priority — and it hasn’t always been. At the moment, nearly every marketer is vying to have more of a direct relationship with customers. Those relationships will be harder to nurture in a post-cookies world without tapping into first-party data that can provide signals to what consumers find truly valuable. 

It’s time to dispel the belief that the end of cookies means the end of personalized recommendations. Brands approaching an uncertain future without cookies can take the following steps to be prepared:

  • Work with publishers to utilize their first-party targeting data and understand the audiences the brand can target in a noninvasive way. 
  • Consider the environment in which the brand is featured. Audiences are tired of disruption — an environment that is relevant to their experience helps create engagement.
  • Create value for the audience by presenting them with content that is of interest to them. Do not assume a one-size-fits-all approach will work when it comes to content. 

For brands that follow these three steps, their marketing teams will hardly miss cookies at all.

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