top of page

Tales of Targeting with a Digital Buyer

If digital buyers were leprechauns, our pot of gold would be filled with consumer data instead. Data on user trends, habits, behaviors, demographics, income, interests, level of education - any bit of information helps us do our jobs with more precision and reliability. The problem with digital advertising’s reliance on data is that consumers don’t always like how their data is collected and used online (we know...understatement of the century). With all the information that brands such as Google, Facebook or Amazon have on all of us, sometimes it can start to feel like Big Brother is egregiously invading our private lives. Over 90% of consumers say ads are more intrusive today than they were just two years ago, according to The Drum.

The ad industry has had to take steps to address consumer privacy concerns, though, thanks to new legislation springing up all over the globe. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), implemented two years ago by the EU, addresses data protection and privacy in the EU and European Economic Area. Its influence reaches beyond the European continent, though. In America, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) just went into effect on January 1, 2020. The CCPA is described as GDPR-lite and gives residents of the state more control over the collection and use of their personal information by companies. It’s also having ripple effects beyond California.

These new privacy laws, along with browser crackdowns on third-party cookies and other regulations currently in the works, will leave very few players along the digital ad buying supply chain unscathed. What does this mean for a digital buyer just trying to make their way in the digital world - and the marketers and advertisers who rely on them?

Well, some of our strategies must be adjusted to accommodate a greater commitment to our audiences’ privacy. The use of tools such as advanced analytics, AI and machine learning now come with some restrictions. However, it’s not all doom and gloom in our new privacy-minded digital landscape. By making a few changes, digital buyers can respect the concerns, fears and legalities around privacy without sacrificing their audience targeting capabilities.

Getting Explicit Consent

In the past, consumers have had very little control over how their data are collected and used. They weren’t even aware of exactly what companies knew about them, much less how to protect this information. Personal data were and are often gathered through various technologies such as cookies that are dropped onto websites and mobile apps with users being none the wiser.

You have first-party cookies, which are generally good and are used to improve the user experience on the website that uses them. Third-party cookies have been used to follow consumers around the internet and gather data on them that can then be used for things such as retargeting campaigns and cross-site targeting. Third-party cookies don’t have a good reputation. In fact, web browsers such as Safari and Firefox have banned them altogether.

Before privacy laws, third-party cookie data collection was unregulated. Now, companies have to obtain explicit consent before collecting and processing personally identifiable information. For a digital buyer, inventory that comes with user consent attached is like Christmas. If a publisher has obtained this consent without using third-party cookies, that’s like Christmas and the 4th of July all rolled together.

Getting consent is the key to having an online audience to which we can deliver marketing messages. For digital media buyers, this means forging stronger relationships with publishers and tech vendors to understand their data protocols. And for vendors and publishers, they’re learning that advertisers and media buyers are willing to pay more for inventory they know will comply with new and emerging privacy standards.

Rethinking Programmatic

After the implementation of GDPR compliance rules, many along the programmatic pipeline feared that it marked the end of programmatic advertising as we know it. Data collection is the bread and butter of programmatic advertising - without it, this media channel becomes less accurate and effective. The momentum of this groundbreaking technology has begun to slow in the US, and in response to privacy concerns, the majority of spending (62%) now goes to just three companies: Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Even though it’s no longer the Wild West of data collection, programmatic isn’t dying off. While a considerable part of programmatic buying still relies on third-party cookies, that’s set to change. We mentioned above that multiple web browsers have already started blocking third-party cookies, and Google recently announced that Chrome - one of the last still on the cookie bandwagon - will be phasing them out in coming years. In place of cookies, an arsenal of new technologies such as Chrome’s “Privacy Sandbox” will take their place.

Buyers have begun looking into programmatic guaranteed deals, though. These deals cut out the middleman between buyers and publishers altogether. In a guaranteed deal, a digital buyer is given access directly to a publisher’s inventory. They are able to tap into an audience that matches their own, buying a fixed number of impressions and agreeing to an exact price for them. Both the buyer and publisher are guaranteed something from the other.

In the privacy-minded digital ad industry of the 2020s, programmatic guaranteed deals don’t compromise user data while helping brands find new audiences. Diving headfirst into programmatic deals isn’t advisable without doing your research to determine which publishers offer you the best value. These deals can get expensive and don’t allow as much experimentation as normal programmatic buying.

Putting Ads in Context

Since buyers won’t be seeing a lot of cookies in the future - unless they’re Girl Scout cookies - our targeting tactics will need to become more creative. One alternative to cookie-based targeting is contextual advertising. An automated system chooses ads based on the context of what a user is browsing. This type of targeting uses the information about the content on a webpage instead of bid or impression data to choose ads.

By relating ads to the content a user is viewing rather than their own user data, consumers are guaranteed a level of anonymity while brands can be reasonably assured that the ad impressions they get are relevant. Ads are also forced to focus more on the accuracy and articulation of their messaging, which gives the ad industry as a whole lot more legitimacy in the eyes of users.

Media buyers can go beyond contextual categories to target their audience, as well, utilizing complex semantic concepts to hone in on the right users. Without relying on intrusive user data practices, you’ll also be able to get an idea of where people are in the buying process.

Tales of Targeting With Your Media Stewards

The media industry is always working to target advertising efforts to the right people without invading their privacy or exposing their personal data to bad actors. With new technologies and trends always on the horizon, it’s a tough tightrope to walk, even for the most experienced digital buyer. That’s why it’s so important to our media stewards at The Ward Group to handle every media dollar ethically and ensure we are leaving the media industry better than we found it. These tenets are integral to how we approach every campaign.

The Ward Group runs digital campaigns across all platforms, helping our clients generate brand awareness, nurture leads and track conversions. We know how important digital is to any media plan, and with new regulations changing how users can be targeted on the internet, a dedicated team of media buyers is more critical to brand success than ever before. Reach out to The Ward Group today to start planning your digital strategy.

bottom of page