Data and confused: The increasing complexity of digital ad targeting

Affiliate Marketing

As the business world struggles to understand the implications of the revolving news of the third-party cookie ban, digital ad targeting is growing more complex than ever. Google recently announced an extension of the third party cookie ban however the complexity and uncertainty remain.

Whereas social media was perhaps the greatest tool to create a level playing field, the impending death of the cookie, the iOS 14 update, and the overall increasing complexity of ad targeting could make the rising cost of marketing and lack of data the nail in the coffin for many.

We see four key factors that will determine if a business can adapt to this new data world.

1. Data incentivization

Businesses that can implement both online and offline strategies for first-party data collection will win. For example, in-store QR codes, and the conversational chatbot can be used by businesses to persuade customers to give crucial first-party data that can be leveraged for targeted marketing and audience building.

The most successful incentivization programs typically provide tangible value to consumers. These include rewards/loyalty programs, free shipping, exclusive discounts or free gifts with purchase. Other gamification techniques that make the data collection process easy and fun can also be successful in creating value for customers to share their data. Data collection will be important for not only B2C companies but B2B as well with new digital marketing opportunities expanding across segments.

2. Brand building

When companies invest in brand building they are starting the relationship process without even directly communicating with prospective customers. As targeting gets more complex, branding and PR will be what allows businesses to be sought after, without having to hard sell to cold leads. Brand can be built utilizing podcasting, new video strategies and leveraging the media to place relevant news stories.

Social media remains a key area for companies to develop both awareness and intent by authentically reflecting the brand’s value. When developing brand building techniques it all starts with the customer. Answer these key questions: Who is your customer? What is important to them? How do you align with their needs?

3. Customer relationship management and community

The death of the cookie will drive up customer acquisition costs significantly. This means that customer retention, social proof, reviews and referrals will be key to keeping costs down while ensuring there is a continued flow of leads. Community building will be paramount to nurturing your biggest fans and attracting new ones. Lifetime value will come even closer into focus as brands look for ways to retain customers and build referral networks.

Customer surveys are a great way to keep a pulse on how your customers feel and what will guide future purchases. Email marketing remains an underutilized communication channel for many businesses. Email automation platforms like Klaviyo for ecommerce and Mailchimp for just about everything else have improved tremendously allowing businesses to set templates and triggered responses to increase customer engagement, upsell products, and introduce new programs.

Read next: HubSpot’s roadmap to building community through content

4. Own your data: Identity resolution and behavior-based engagement

One roadblock, among many, in a cookie-less future is the difficulty that marketers will have collecting data. Marketing platforms such as Google and Facebook hold all of the information available to target and convert prospects into customers. Businesses will depend on whatever these platforms provide them with. However, the impending death of the cookie has given rise to new and better innovative solutions for businesses to grow; it’s now possible to own and control their data and targeting abilities through identity resolution and behavioral tracking.

Download Enterprise Identity Resolution Platforms: A marketer’s guide

New technology is capable of not only replacing the lost insights from cookies–but dramatically expanding them. Knowing who lands on your website, where they came from, and their ongoing digital behavior presents all kinds of personalization opportunities in a world where most brands are reduced to impersonal tools and tactics.

Startups like make it possible for brands to bring first-party data into the “Big Four” advertising platforms to dictate their own targeting and audiences independently. The result is drastically reduced costs to acquire customers, higher conversion rates from personalizing the entire customer experience, and expanded opportunities to communicate with audiences across multiple channels. Where cookies fail, identity and behavior prevail.

As businesses struggle to adapt to the increasing complexity of data and ad targeting, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Leveraging a combination of strong brand building, data incentivization, customer relationship management, and identity resolution businesses can not only weather the storm but start building the roadmap for thriving in the growing digital landscape.

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About The Author


Ryan Alford is a 20-year ad agency veteran, successful entrepreneur, and marketing influencer. Ryan has built multiple businesses into 7-figure performers including his current digital agency Radical, which is one of the fastest-growing digital agencies in the southeast. Best known for his work on brands like Verizon, Lexus, and the NFL Ryan now hosts The Radcast a top-100 US marketing podcast.

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