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How to find the ‘gold dust’ in your identity strategy

Gold nuggets sit in an old minecart with a large pixelated cursor sitting inside.

Illustration by Robyn Phelps / Getty / Shutterstock / The Current

The identity revolution may be upon us, but report after report still shows that marketers are seemingly unprepared for what comes after the cookie.

Not all, though.

Senior marketers from HSBC, Uber, Tesco, Arla Foods and IPG agency Kinesso gathered at an event co-hosted by The Trade Desk and Campaign in London last week to paint a picture of how advertisers, retail media networks and agencies are working together not only to future-proof media buying but also to understand audiences more deeply and drive better performance for brands.

One main theme that emerged was marketers’ desire to shed the shackles of cookies and move on, toward a vision of identity that respects consumer privacy while delivering superior performance for advertisers. Retail data emerged as a clear favorite in this respect.

Rob Edwards, head of media and digital at Arla Foods, pointed to retail data as “arguably the golden thread around this identity revolution.”

“As a brand, if you can tell me who’s buying my product, and if you can tell me about incrementality, what they’re watching, what they’re listening to, that’s gold dust,” said Edwards.

“Should all brands be interested in retail media? Absolutely,” added Edwards. “Irrespective of what your brand stands for, the audience you have, if you ignore retail data, it’s at your peril.”

Changing identity

Before jumping into the ongoing identity revolution, it pays for marketers to step back and consider the wider context around these changes in the advertising world.

“Today, if we think about the fastest-growing channels in our industry, it’s streaming TV, audio, in-app — all of these were never relying on a cookie, and advertising works there right now,” said Jessica McGrogan, GM of business development for brands at The Trade Desk.

In this new era, marketers are having to think about consumer identity beyond just a snippet of code in a browser. Indeed, understanding identity could become a business-critical asset.

“We need to make sure that consumer identity is considered in the design of […] the marketing, the price and also in the way that we are going to measure the success of our products,” said Dr. Graziella Castro, global head of marketing effectiveness at HSBC.

She pointed out that HSBC has a consistent brand image across Asian and Western markets, even as its customers in various countries consume media in different ways. HSBC’s focus is on solving customers’ problems and Castro sees the upcoming identity revolution as “an opportunity to make the link between branding and business outcomes stronger than ever.”

“We look at consumer identity data and what we find is that everybody has the same pain, the same friction,” she said.

The retail data opportunity

First-party data has emerged as a key way for brands to understand their customers more deeply. Realistically, however, many may not be able to accumulate it at the scale needed. That’s where retail data comes in.

“The likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and others have huge data sets for brands that haven’t traditionally had huge data sets,” said Martin Beauchamp, chief product officer at Kinesso.

But the bigger opportunity may be in going beyond known customers. “If you’re only going after the people you think are important, once you’ve converted them, they might convert again. So what’s the point in tapping in to the same people that are likely to come back,” said Beauchamp.

While advertisers may balk at the idea of wasting even one penny of media spend, the reality is that understanding audiences in the post-cookie world will likely require a shift in mindset. “There is a case to be made that wastage is good, because wastage helps you find new audiences,” added Beauchamp.

Even if conversions are not the goal, expanding a brand’s reach can help brands “have a broader view and understand your audience,” said Stacy Gratz, regional managing director of media at Dunnhumby.

Dunnhumby is also tapping in to shopper data to map out demographics and as a source for propensity modeling. In this way, advertisers can rely on data science “to identify audiences you may not have thought about before,” said Gratz.

This new era of identity, while seemingly daunting with all its new options beyond the cookie, also comes with targeting opportunities that were previously unthinkable.

“We have a retail media business, which is Uber Eats, but we also have rides’ data that is when you go into an Uber and that intent is built into the destination,” said Paul Wright, head of Uber Advertising at Uber.

An advertiser may be interested in targeting a rider going to Heathrow airport in London, for example, as they know the traveler will have to pass by a duty-free shop.

It all adds up to an opportunity to reset the data relationships that advertisers have with their customers.

“Our research does show that when we are explaining it, and consumers have a better understanding of ‘I get personalized ads, more relevant content, free premium shows on this platform I love,’ they’re okay with [sharing data],” said McGrogan.

The Current is owned and operated by The Trade Desk Inc.