Advertising Week NYC 2019 – Privacy and Identity in a Cookie-less World

Perspectives / by Ryan Baum on October 1, 2019

Advertising Week NYC 2019 – Privacy and Identity in a Cookie-less World

3 minute read

When Advertising Week NYC 2017 took place, I had just started my first job out of college at a boutique PR agency in the city. Because my clients were mostly in the market research and adtech spaces, I was reading anything I could get my hands on to better understand the GDPR legislation.


Now, I’m three months into my new job, as a marketing communications manager for Helixa. We think about privacy a lot, because it’s important to the market research industry and a core part of our product. So it’s fitting that my first in-person Advertising Week experience, last week, had a new privacy bill looming: the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). 


As the industry has felt the full ramifications of GDPR over the past two years, it was clear at this year’s conference that preparation was a much bigger focus this time around. Data privacy was a key theme – present in some session titles, and woven subtly into the content of many more. It was most pronounced, though, in the casual discussions in between. 


An industry-wide identity crisis


The idea of identity was another theme that was echoed across many panels from last week. During “So Much Data...So Little Time,”  Elliott Easterling of TrueData defined identity as connecting real-world people to their devices and online actions. It becomes harder to sustain stable connections between the online and offline worlds without cookies, especially outside of the walled gardens, but Easterling argued the matched data was never as good as first-party data in the first place.


In a related panel, “The Key to Fixing Digital Advertising’s ‘Identity’ Crisis: People,” John Terrana of SocialCode pointed out that a marriage of first- and third-party data under a single consumer identity was a key factor in making walled gardens so effective.


The walled gardens seem to be the best at identifying consumers online, and their stockpile of first-party data will probably make them even stronger in a post-cookie landscape. I’m interested to see what third-party companies pop up to tackle this issue of identification, to help break down the silos. 


Emptying the cookie jar


One-to-one marketing has become the holy grail for many companies, but these privacy bills are changing the rulebook. The idea of a “cookie-less world” may have seemed far off in 2017, but it was a pressing topic last week. People are rightfully worried about how we move forward from here.


From what I gathered from my sessions and conversations, the companies with the most optimism around data privacy were those who had either fully permissioned data or products that excluded PII in the first place. Helixa falls in the latter group, but let’s focus on the former for a minute to explore the opportunities there. 


Moving to a CRM model for first-party data


Speakers on one panel, titled “Building for a Cookie-less World: The Future is Now,” made the argument that first-party relationships will become more important than ever, to retain access to the data from the remaining first-party cookies. They proposed a CRM-type model of first-party relationship management, where value is offered in return for logins or other methods of opting in, in order to identify the person behind the keyboard.


As the panelists pointed out, first-party data varies from company to company and is limited to what your company can collect on your physical and digital properties. These companies may need other audience insights to fill in the gaps.


Also, one vendor I talked to mentioned that many companies struggle to collect first-party data, because they are separated from consumers by packaging plants, resellers, and other third-party middlemen. I am interested to see if disruptive DTC brands can leverage the first-party data they are swimming in to further turn the tide against these massive household brands.


A possible renaissance for persona-based marketing


From what I heard at Advertising Week NYC last week, I think persona-based marketing will be a solution that a lot of companies turn to when third-party cookies are a thing of the past. It’s not a true replacement, of course, but it is another source of audience insights that avoids issues of PII.


As it becomes harder to connect the dots between the actions consumers take online and offline, persona-based marketing provides another method of gaining granular insight into who these consumers are and what they are interested in. Plus, the personas available today are leaps and bounds ahead of the simple demographic personas we used years ago.


At the end of the day, consumers are rightfully demanding privacy for their data, but I don’t think they are willing to sacrifice the customized advertising experience they are used to. I know I’m not. I’m curious to see how the industry responds to that challenge, and I’m excited for what we have in the works here at Helixa.


Subscribe to the Blog