Beyond The Cookie: How To Achieve Real People-Based Marketing

Lego People

Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Alex Mcilvenny (pictured below), country manager UK, Zeotap, discusses how people-based marketing in the post-cookie landscape can be used for relevant cross-device targeting.

People-based marketing is about directly connecting real people with the right experience to ensure high engagement that delivers on business impact. The UK’s largest brands such as Kellogs, The Times, and Lee Jeans, to name a few, have all made significant shifts in their digital strategies and budget allocation to guarantee their market position through sharpened strategies that ensure people-based marketing is achieved. eMarketer predicts that in the UK, digital ad spend will amount to 70.8% of all media spend for 2019. With increased digital spend, comes more data. Subsequently, brands have invested heavily in data management platforms (DMP) and customer relationship management (CRM) tools to become more data-driven.

However, for these data-savvy marketers, DMP/CRM implementation does not solve it all. Salesforce estimates that 43% of brands are failing to use even half of their CRM’s data capabilities. While in February 2019, BCG released a report detailing that the 200 top global brands are still facing major challenges like not making connections across consumer touchpoints and devices (83% of respondents), inadequate cross-functional coordination (80%) and lack of data integration and activation across channels (50%). Adding to this, decreasing cookie-lifespans and a lack of complementary third-party data means that for brands who invest an average 29% of their budget on martech, are still not able to connect this offline data to the online world and leaves little room for business impact, let alone targeted people-based marketing.

Alex Mcilvenny

Alex Mcilvenny, country manager UK, zeotap

For brands wanting to increase ROI through people-based marketing can expect up to 20% ROI according to a report by BCG commissioned by Google called, “The Dividends of Digital Marketing Maturity” in February 2019. However, this can only be achieved when brands implement the right identity resolution and data enrichment strategy, that can enable the full power of their CRM/DMP systems.

Impacting business through identity resolution and data enrichment

It all starts with identity resolution. As user data is siloed by channel or device, the process of identity resolution allows brands to have a 360° view of the customers by accurately connecting different customers identifiers — such as CRM offline data, mobile cookies, mobile AdIDs or desktop cookies — to one single user, and creating a device graph accordingly.

It follows with data enrichment. Once brands can reach their customers across channels and devices, the process of data enrichment allows them to better understand their customers beyond the basic data points they may have been able to collect from their properties or services. Then they can make better-informed marketing decisions and even enhance their own AI and machine learning models.

The reality is that matching different user identifiers with high precision without losing any scale is still a challenge for most brands, as well as finding the right external data to complimentarily enrich their user profiles.

Conquering The Cookie Challenge

Until recently, the industry has relied mainly on cookies, which has made identity resolution a much more complicated goal to master. After all, cookies are unreliable, have a limited time span, and most importantly, cookie duplication results in endless syncing that decreases precision as more vendors pile on.

Some brands rely on deterministic cookie syncing which works in the following way: let’s say a user logs into their BBC account on both their phone (through the app) and desktop on a different day. Assuming the BBC works with TTD and allows them to drop their cookie onto their web properties, now BBC can connect that email address to a mobile AdID and to a TTD desktop cookie and brands can work with BBC to make that data actionable. This would allow them to get explicit links between identifiers, albeit at the expense of scale.

A much wider practice is probabilistic cookie syncing. This happens when ad tech companies gather information on users’ online behaviour like IP addresses, location, gender and interests based on web browsing. Their proprietary algorithms are then able to find patterns and identify the same user across devices and channels. The probability can range from low to high, causing brands to trade precision for scale.

Advancing Advertising With AdIDs

So how can we achieve both accuracy and scale when dealing with identity resolution?

In an effort to achieve both accuracy and scale, players in the industry are leaning towards AdIDs, the most widely-accepted alternative to cookies, but better for identity resolution. The advantages of AdIDs are many: they track devices and not browsers, they work well on mobile including in-app, they are permanent and don’t expire, and they are unique per device. And in terms of achieving scale, it’s critical to find an identity resolution provider that has the connections to source the data in a scalable way in order to incorporate people-based marketing into your strategy.

People-based marketing has to move past cookies and start to rely more heavily on AdIDs. Providers that are too dependent on cookies and source behavioural data from them will face multiple challenges moving forward. Brands have to treat identity resolution and data enrichment as one, while it is important to understand the veracity of any data that's used for it - and its sourcing method is a good place to start.

We need to stop compromising. Advertisers need both accuracy and scale to develop the right marketing strategies that fit each client individually. We all want to reach the holy grail of people-based marketing to truly realize the promise of digital for increasing ROI.


Zeotap is the next-generation Customer Data Platform. Its Customer Intelligence Platform (CIP), empowers brands to unify, enhance and activate customer data in a cookieless future, all while putting consumer privacy and compliance front-and-centre. R...
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