Any reputable stakeholders in the digital industry will agree users deserve privacy. And yet, brands and agencies in the APAC region have an extraordinarily hard time breaking away from third-party cookies. A recent Adobe study revealed 79% of APAC brands rely “heavily” on third-party cookies – and they broadly understand this is not a winning strategy. Among respondents, 34% said third-party cookie deprecation could have a devastating effect on their businesses, but 60% consider third-party cookies a “necessary evil.”
This can’t stand. Brands need to expect that enforcement will come with regulation, as it already has elsewhere in the world. And brands need to understand there’s a future in scalable targeting and measurement beyond third-party cookies. Unfortunately, the common error of conflating third-party data with third-party cookies frequently gets in the way. Brand leaders need to realize that third-party data includes compliant, reliable data sets that can scale campaigns far beyond what their first-party data resources can allow – and that putting a broader variety of data sets to use can improve relevancy and reduce wasted spend.
Data privacy is good business
Over the last several years, data companies have aggressively incorporated a wider variety of third-party data signals on their platforms, and invested in technology to draw and extrapolate insights from limited datasets. Those insights enable data enrichment, audience expansion, and customer acquisition – a huge lift for brands that lack scalable first-party data of their own. The legal and user experience-related imperatives to look beyond third-party cookies has created a safer and stronger marketplace and accelerated innovation to optimize the value of available, compliant data.
One of the greatest sources of data-related confusion among brands is the common shortage of understanding of data privacy due diligence. But help is close by: Industry groups have issued guidelines, such as the IAB Tech Lab’s Data Transparency Standard, which utilizes a Data Label – comparable to a nutrition label on a food package – to provide transparency around the data’s sources. Brands need to take steps to understand how to do their own due diligence, and where to look for expert partnership on that front. Too many brands in APAC markets have not made data privacy a priority, and they need to make it one before they’re levied heavy regulatory fines.
First-party data is only the start of a long-term data strategy
Compellingly, APAC users have an understanding that sharing their data enhances their experience on a brand’s site. And according to a Twilio study, 76% are sharing that data, either by selecting “accept all cookies” or setting specific cookie preferences. So brands are getting compliant data from this traffic and engagement.
“Brands need to accept that continuing to rely on third-party cookies is not an option – it’s an invitation to data regulators to scrutinize their businesses.”
These user attitudes are beneficial for building a stronger, privacy-focused data strategy. But they need to understand where to look in this compliant data for the insights that drive their business goals, and how to use modeling and other methods to draw actionable, accurate insights from large and small data sets. Data platforms have these understandings and this technical capability, and they play an important role in getting businesses to a level of compliance and campaign effectiveness.
As it stands, along with wishing enforcement will somehow not negatively impact their use of third-party cookies, too many brands are addressing data privacy by becoming overreliant on first-party data strategies. Aside from being impractical – even the largest brands will face challenges of scale by counting on their first-party data to save the day – first-party data doesn’t suffice in all of a brand’s business goals. First-party data is helpful for customer retention and experience, but not for acquisition. Prospective customers simply won’t look like existing customers all the time.
Third-party data reveals the fuller scope of audience characteristics and behavior across sites, apps, and digital channels. This helps brands better understand the customers they have the potential to reach, and the most effective channels for reaching and engaging them, based on a number of privately collected data signals – including meaningful signals like household income, media habits, social media interactions, geolocation context, and online and offline shopping behavior. This data can be used on its own, for market research and customer insights, or it can be combined with first- and second-party data for enrichment. This is where we find lookalike modeling, which can help locate relevant customer profiles more efficiently and at scale.
You need both the right data and the right tech
Keep in mind that even retail media networks (RMNs) and other businesses that have very large volumes of first-party data are investing in second- and third-party data for greater reach and scale. No one is truly above the fray. And this data, which is otherwise siloed and fragmented, needs to be consolidated and unified to be activated in the ad ecosystem. This requires strong tech infrastructure: Brands need the data and the tech. What’s more, partnership with a data provider ultimately gives brands more independence from walled gardens. Data empowers brands to take direct ownership of their relationships with their preferred business partners.
A data partner will also help brands test identity solutions, which must be a priority with the clock running down on the wide availability of third-party cookies. Google Topics is one such solution, which brands can now test with Google Chrome. But to be competitive, brands will need to test identity solutions for the open web, and beyond walled gardens like Google and Meta.
These walled gardens already take an outsized share of ad budgets, even though their data is challenging at best to access for the open web and integrate into a holistic digital strategy. Brands consider the ability to target and measure on the open web to be an important aspect of their growth strategies, and not having that ability is a real detriment to growth and competitiveness.
Brands need to accept that continuing to rely on third-party cookies is not an option – it’s an invitation to data regulators to scrutinize their businesses. And brands need to understand they can indeed continue to scale campaigns across the entire web by using compliant third-party data. It’s time to prepare a strong data infrastructure to thrive in this evolving ad ecosystem – for greater independence, audience growth, and long-term customer loyalty and trust.