Durable Data-Driven Creative Strategies: Learn with GMP

There’s been a lot of theoretical talk about privacy and the impact of the loss of the cookie. But when marketers ask how it will specifically impact their digital ad campaigns, there’s a lot of information to parse through and not a lot of answers. We joined Google Marketing Platform’s creative solutions team in a Learn with GMP session to discuss the impact of the loss of the cookie on data-driven creative as we know it today. 

Rhonda Shade

Access On Demand recording here

Personalization still matters. Personalized creative at scale is still important in a privacy-first world because consumers want advertising to be relevant and marketers want their advertising to be effective. Data-driven creative doesn’t have to go away with the cookie, but marketers do need to future-proof their digital strategies to not rely on them. 

DDC creative strategies that will be impacted by the loss of the cookie. The way we leverage technologies to personalize creative will evolve to be privacy-safe and forward-looking. Data-driven creative workflows will continue; it’s how we’re leveraging the backend technology that will change. The current dynamic creative strategies that will be impacted include audience targeting to first and third party cookie-based audiences, remarketing strategies, creative sequencing, along with auto-optimization. This impact will change the ways of thinking about these dynamic strategies, but it doesn’t need to be a step backward – we can recreate strategies we currently have. The next frontier of personalized creative will be automation and optimization without a reliance on third party cookies.

Now is the time to get started with future-proofing your campaign. The early bird always gets the worm and this is no different. Things will continue to change and marketers will need to rely on creative quality and non-cookie based personalization in the future. That means that they’ll need to shift to first party strategies and the industry will move towards aggregated, anonymized measurement and data collection – and it’s important to start that process now.  

Even though the loss of the cookie has been delayed in Chrome for another year, marketers are already feeling the impact of it with browsers who no longer support the cookie (Safari and Firefox) along with GDPR, CCPA and iOS 14. Marketers need to test new strategies in order to have a handle on what’s working and performing for them by the time the cookie degrades, and they need to optimize towards using tactics that will be durable moving forward. While the new privacy restrictions do not mean that creative personalization will go away, consumers are already demanding a seamless, open and transparent experience. Marketers that find the sweet spot between privacy and tailored advertising will lead the strategies of the future. 

The building blocks to a durable DDC campaign are data, durable creative and testing. It’s been proven that creative is key to the overall performance of a campaign, but when it comes to data-driven creative, we can’t forget that the creative’s effectiveness begins and ends with the data. While it’s important to have objective-based creative design, the right data inputs and outputs provide the insight to achieve relevance. Having first party data organized to start with, then layering that with the customer and external signals available provide the inputs. Then evaluating the outputs with a measurement infrastructure to learn how the creative performs against that data is what continually informs the creative. 

Getting the foundation right with your data, designing a future-proof creative solution and then using technology to react, listen and evaluate are the building blocks of a durable data-driven campaign. Many of the dynamic creative strategies that marketers have been using can continue without the cookie by evolving them with a new framework.

In a cookie-less world, we need to re-imagine remarketing using a new audience framework. Many remarketing campaigns retarget based on last click, or last product viewed. Not only will this approach not be supported when the cookie goes away, but it’s also not privacy-forward because it’s the type of marketing that feels invasive. 

A durable approach to remarketing should use a new audience framework using first party data, which can be informed by on-site behavior and sales data. The creative can activate this framework by leading with either top-selling products or top categories instead of the last product viewed. This way the creative is actually helping provide product discovery to audiences instead of showing them what they’ve already seen. And it’s future-proof.

Context is king and a great way to speak directly to what audiences are interested in. Contextual strategies are another great way to provide campaign relevance to audiences in a privacy-forward way. Using this approach, we’re able to match campaign messaging to the content it’s being served into. 

This isn’t a new strategy, but it can be a lot of work because you have to set it up in the platform line item by line item. However, contextual can be simplified by using automation techniques to make it easier to successfully execute on this strategy. 

External APIs are a durable data sourceIn most cases, APIs will not be interrupted due to the loss of the cookie or other privacy related issues. Some popular APIs are weather, sports scores, financial data like bank rates and even mapping data. All of these can aid in the personalization of creative in a durable fashion. One example is the Google Maps API, which has been around for quite some time but is just as relevant today as ever. What’s nice about the Maps API is that it has a lot of built in functionality such as getting from point A to point B, allowing the user to navigate within the Maps UI and even the ability to fix missing roads.

A/B testing is more important than ever with the loss of the cookie. To future-proof campaigns, there’s a need to take existing dynamic creative architecture and run more testing to gain richer insights in the process. It’s important to see what’s performing in real-time and not wait until the campaign’s post analysis — moving from a linear process to more of a continuous loop. Testing durable campaigns alongside existing campaigns provides an opportunity to see what’s working or not working before the cookie is degraded. This can be done by taking what has been a manual process in the past and using automation so that optimization can be applied easily with just a click of a button. 

Advanced DDC strategies leverage technology to provide a personalized experience. With advanced strategies, we have the opportunity to make creative work exceptionally hard by making sure we understand and utilize the data that we already have. This means looking at not only the ads themselves, but also the workflow that goes into it, and then simplifying the steps involved. 

Having a solution to help extract the data so that it can be modeled and analyzed is key, but streamlining the process is equally important. Allowing non-technical stakeholders to have access to the data inputs and creative messaging are necessary components in automating the process towards a future-proof solution.

Beyond that, enriching the customer data with external signals helps to achieve relevance based on environmental factors that can influence behavior. Having an infrastructure that brings all this information together so that it can inform tailored creative based on messaging strategies makes it possible to execute advanced strategies at volume. 

Through the use of technology, marketers can tap into a solution that works in concert with GMP to provide a harmonized workflow combined with real-time control and testing to understand what users prefer to see.

Taking actionable steps toward future-proofing campaigns now will reap rewards later. What are the steps to take to future-proof campaigns? A creative audit is an easy first step in the process. The audit takes a look at very specific things from a client’s current tracking and tagging in their existing creative workflow. The results of the findings provide concrete, actionable steps that a client can take and do themselves. If not, Google or a partner can help with the implementation.

The findings of the audit will help to understand what needs to be done to prepare your first party data in order to enhance it. If you haven’t already, running a parallel instance of Google Analytics 4 (the New Google Analytics) alongside the current Universal GA instance is recommended because the data GA4 collects is not retroactive. Setting it up now and running with it in the background will provide a solid year of data in GA4 until it’s time to switch over. 

Another actionable next step is to experiment with emerging technology to build privacy-forward ads that provide tailored help. For instance, ads that can provide personalized recommendations through conversational creative using AI technology. Or ads that provide intelligent product recommendations through machine learning. Ecommerce ads that facilitate conversion in-unit is another great way to move the customer down the funnel while relying less on remarketing tactics. 

We’re optimistic that by November 2023, we’ll have successfully evolved past the cookie. Digital and creative will finally take center stage in driving business growth. We’ll be much smarter by using first party data insights successfully, and machine learning will help us predict what products or messaging to feature. Marketers who start now will have the benefits of a first-mover advantage as well as valuable insights into their customers’ needs and preferences. Showing your customer that you value their business by understanding their needs and responding to them will be an opportunity to forge a relationship that will only become stronger — and you don’t need a cookie to do that.

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