Attribution and optimization trends in a cookie-less world.

By Mo Omer, Cognitive Solutions Director

For years, marketers have seen an increase in legislative and organizational pressure towards improving consumer privacy. In the past two years, this pressure has translated into real-world action: governments and organizations the world over have introduced legislation and technology road-maps that will reduce the long-term effectiveness of third party cookie-based tracking and targeting.

While the details of these proposed changes are, at times, opaque, it is clear that over the next few years independent digital advertising, targeting and measurement will need to adapt to an increasingly cookie-less world.

Where many independent cookie-based firms face challenges, walled-gardens may stand to actually benefit from these increased restrictions. Leveraging their vertically integrating marketing technology ecosystems, walled gardens can already track consumer behavior and marketing performance in a nearly closed-loop fashion through their first-party data tracking.

Identity and universal ID solutions: the case for improved digital tracking

While legislative changes may be unclear, web browsers have provided glimpses into their privacy roadmaps. Google is proposing a dramatic reduction in third-party cookie tracking capabilities in their Chrome browser, which has spurred independent identity resolution providers and publishers into action as they look to find technical workarounds.

LiveRamp’s “Authenticated Traffic Solution” product is one such workaround. The proposal for publishers is simple: publishers share their first-party consumer information, like email addresses and detailed web behavior, with LiveRamp in exchange for the promise of receiving enriched information about their consumers. This may raise the value of their traffic in marketplaces that use LiveRamp’s proprietary IdentityLink ID.

LiveRamp’s not alone in this endeavor. Neustar, BritePool, and other independent marketing technology firms are all competing to build the most robust, widely integrated identity graphs to maintain relevance in a future where walled-garden datasets loom.

As third-party cookies fall out of favor, these identity solutions may provide the required foundation for current state-of-the-art attribution and ROI understanding techniques like multi-touch attribution. For some of C-K’s clients, we have selected to leverage C3 Metrics, a multi-touch attribution provider, which offers an integration with LiveRamp’s universal ID, helping to bolster the platform’s relevance in coming years.

Back to the classics? A return to demonstrable, aggregate, understanding

Beyond consumer-specific attribution, some marketers see a potential return to classical testing methodologies like surveys, A/B testing, media-mix modeling, path analyses, and causal inference.

An excellent example of this is Google’s Causal Impact, published in 2015, which brought to the masses an approachable, easy-to-use, A/B-ish testing methodology to help uncover the true business impact of a marketing effort by isolating test and control markets by either geography, time, or both. C-K has leveraged this open-source product to great effect for our clients to help evaluate channels, tactics and more.

C-K’s own award-winning LinCKage product is one such methodology, providing value to clients with marketing response curves and analysis that help clients maximize their marketing budgets.

Each of these methodologies has proven their worth in various scenarios where holistic understanding, in aggregate, impacts future decisions based on past performance, and are often perceived as more approachable than their real-time, multi-touch attribution solution counterparts. One thing to note about these studies is time to insight: days or weeks may pass before any significant result can be gleaned from these carefully prepared analyses.

A holistic future: the search for unified attribution approaches continues

Somewhere in this technology tumult, some independent attribution firms seek a middle ground between identifier-based and marketing-mix methodologies, promising real-time holistic understanding through predictive technologies.

Recent acquisitions tell the same story. Last month, VideoAmp, historically a TV attribution provider, acquired a leading multi-touch attribution provider in Conversion Logic, with the hope of extending their “capabilities in multi-touch attribution and scenario planning.” While last year, LiveRamp acquired Data Plus Math, to enable the “flexibility to tie together TV and digital to any real-world outcome online or offline…

And, as granular identity-based methodologies widen their approach, classical modelers are also looking to improve. One rising tactic is the integration of near-term, hourly predictions to bring a true understanding of shifting real-time trends to marketing performance discussions. C-K is currently developing a suite of predictive tools to bring opportunities like these into reality for our clients.