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Last year, something new was brewing in the technology sector. Apple rolled out its iOS 14.5 update that gave its users the means to revoke an app’s ability to track their activities. Meanwhile, Google announced that it will gradually block trackers and cookies from its Chrome browser by mid-2023 and completely eliminate them by the end of that year. Last but not least, Facebook decided to pivot its ad business by working on new ways of displaying relevant ads without relying on its users’ personal data.

These privacy-enhancing technologies and actions have suddenly given rise to a dramatic and disruptive paradigm shift for advertisers, publishers and third-party data brokers. The demise of third-party cookies means there is almost no way to collect, track and analyze data from multiple sources in real-time. Future marketing campaigns and advertising strategies seem to come to a screeching halt. However, data privacy is increasingly at the forefront of consumer attention over the years and the recent rise of data breaches added to the continued loss of confidence. This is a scenario that was bound to happen sooner or later.

So, where does this leave advertisers and marketers? For one, brands will lose access to granularity. Targeted advertising will no longer be effective and personalization is out of the picture without precise indication on customers’ online behaviors. While businesses are losing the power to market to individuals, there are emerging technologies and innovative solutions that may become the new mainstay.

Against this backdrop, let’s explore some of them.

First-Party Data

In a cookie-less world, data has become all the more important. This is why every business with an online presence already has first-party data at their disposal. It is created and recorded the moment a user visits your website rather than obtaining collected and tracked data from other entities, which you don’t own. First-party data is information you can control, allowing your brand to create personalized experiences within your own channel while easily complying with privacy regulations.

This is only possible, in any virtual platform, because users have agreed to the processing of their data to purchase products and services or view content. It enables your business to build deeper customer relationships, map the user journeys, and gain a comprehensive view of your demographic. Think of this as ‘value exchange’ where users willingly hand over their details for free content, special promotions or access to tailored services. As you obtain more higher quality data, your business can connect directly with data owners to view the bigger picture, not merely small segments, to improve overall marketing and advertising efforts. As the saying goes, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

AI, Automation and Machine Learning

As the usability of third-party cookies starts to fade away, you need to rely on deeper analytics to gain the most relevant insights. While first-party data will be the new king, it is not perfect. The entire data lifecycle – from consent and collection to processing and measurement – needs a revamp. By leveraging AI and machine learning, these cutting-edge technologies can fill in data gaps while creating powerful models to ensure that the insights generated are robust and precise, even with smaller datasets.

Besides providing better analytics, there are AI-enabled solutions that offer privacy-compliant automation. With the right setting, data collection can be quick and reliable while respecting a user’s privacy by omitting sensitive data and adhering to privacy regulations. In addition, the speed and consistency of AI-powered tools can help your brand understand and enforce complex data privacy laws. One real-world example can be seen in e-commerce platforms. Upon purchasing a product, AI-powered algorithms will segmentize your data and share only relevant details with service providers – your search history to the website, your address to the shipping company and your financial information to the payment gateway.

Contextual Advertising

Behavioral advertising was much favored during the era of third-party cookies as digital ads can “follow” customers wherever they went based on their personal data. In the post-cookie world, contextual advertising is making a big comeback. Rather than plastering ads all over the Internet according to a user’s profile, it aligns them according to the current digital content being consumed, hence, the contextual relevance. This reduces reliance on external data while enhancing knowledge on audience preferences by analyzing related keywords and topics.

Furthermore, leveraging AI-based solutions can revitalize and modernize contextual advertising. By infusing intelligence into your digital properties, you can identify user sentiment, analyze the effectiveness of your content, and integrate first-party data to gain a holistic understanding of your customers. This creates a win-win situation as advertisers are able to authentically reach users with rich content related to their offerings while consumers gain engaging content supported by genuinely relevant ads.

Digital Ads Will Change

Once upon a time, the commoditization of personal data left people feeling more like a product than a customer. Moving forward, the death of third-party cookies brings forth a new age of digital advertising – a privacy-safe space that learns about its audience without getting intrusive. Yes, data, numbers and measurements still matter but they are no longer the only things that do. Brands should also design their digital content for creativity, excitement and experience.

As an individual in the advertising and marketing field, there are certainly other options besides hyper-personalization and flooding every website with pop-up ads. It is high time the industry merges technology innovation and creative thinking to tell captivating stories that move human hearts and minds in lieu of simply moving mouse cursors and fingers to the close button.