What’s Ahead for Marketers as a New Browser War Begins | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

What’s Ahead for Marketers as a New Browser War Begins

January 5, 2021

By Michael Zacharski


Whatever the “new normal” means for ad tech, soon we’ll have to deal with the end of the third-party cookie and what that means for targeting and measurement strategies. New solutions will emerge, but so will a new context — a third “browser war.”

Our industry doesn’t talk much about browsers these days, but it’s important to understand that the browser is where consumers meet content — both advertising and editorial. Consequently, browser companies have the power to set and move the goalposts for the industry.

In this latest browser war, Apple has positioned itself as the privacy brand. Google has staked out a “best for the consumer” position that prioritizes first-party data. Then there’s Microsoft’s Edge Chromium browser, a little-known but highly utilized Facebook browser for viewing mobile content discovered on the social network and Mozilla’s Firefox. Finally, as the TV world and the programmatic world come together, the TV screen is quickly becoming the next frontier and arguably a new “browser” to consider.

Three fundamental questions are key to understanding the outcome of this browser war.

  1. How does each browser benefit the consumer?
  2. How does each browser work with ad targeting and measurement solutions?
  3. What balance does the browser strike between consumer privacy and monetization?

In the long run, browsers that effectively answer these questions will win. But with so much at stake and so many powerful players in the mix, it’ll be some time before a clear winner emerges. In the meantime, marketers must navigate an increasingly complex environment while simultaneously developing new solutions for targeting and measurement.


How Should Marketers Proceed Today?

The first thing to realize is that you are not alone. The current challenges related to identity, specifically targeting and measurement across screens and devices, is an industry issue. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and although that may not necessarily be comforting, it is the reality we should all be prepared for.

A short-term focus that leverages existing tools is the obvious first step in developing a strategy. DSP’s, DMP’s, SSP’s and the rest of the ad tech stack are still operating. But it’s crucial to prepare for the fact that as cookie users become scarcer, those audiences will become more expensive to purchase. Understanding the rising cost of cookie audiences will help marketers think about their organization’s timeline for adaptation.


What About Tomorrow?

As a long-range focus, marketers should investigate alternative identity solutions.

Many vendors in the space are placing bets, but for the most part, a scattered strategy is emerging. No single identity solution that is in play today will replace the cookie, so marketers are being asked to integrate as many alternative solutions as possible. This scattered approach provides numerous options for marketers to test and get accustomed to new tools, but it also increases options on an already extremely long, and at times, hard to decipher menu of choices. Furthermore, those choices do not always play together when trying to apply them cross-device or across channels.

Things like the resurgence of IP and IDFA targeting have brought some relief and ability for cross-screen resolution. However, these signals are challenged when applied to mobile environments where the IP belongs to a cell tower and the IDFA is blocked in an APP. Traditional data companies that have robust consumer profiles and the permission to utilize these profiles from consumers have also been making their way into programmatic and a hashed email-based system has been gaining steam. However, a side effect of that is poor user experience and an advantage for the biggest of players. Great ideas are coming together, but deploying those solutions requires tremendous big data stitching capabilities, and so they may not always be worth the upfront investments and costs to be palatable, sustainable and profitable relative to media investments.

As marketers plan for the long-term, they should ask their partner's many questions. Here are three big questions to help marketers evaluate whether a partner’s solution adds to their strategy, or simply adds cost and complexity.

  • What data points are being used for targeting and measurement?
  • How are those data points integrated across devices and screens?
  • What is each partner doing to plan, both short-term and long-term, for the expiration of the third-party cookie?

In addition to asking questions of their partners, marketers can take a more immediate and proactive approach to measurement alternatives. One good place to begin is to assess the value of alternative measurement solutions, including surveys, panels, and other methodologies that technology has made more scalable and accessible in recent years. In doing so, organizations will likely want to integrate teams with digital marketing and traditional marketing skill sets. After all, marketers are building for a new world, and will therefore want to leverage a wide range of expertise.


The Big Picture

As the browser war divides the open internet into a series of walled gardens, the entire digital ecosystem will change. Publishers will have to decide where it makes sense to plant their crops through a variety of monetization strategies that will range from ad-supported to app-based, to subscription and authentication through a login. During this massive reorganization, marketers will confront a short-run dominated by an all-you-can-eat menu of sorts. But unlike in the earlier browser wars, consumers, privacy advocates, and regulators will have their say this time. Ultimately, that’s a good thing because including all stakeholders will lead to better results for all stakeholders.

Make no mistake, marketers are embarking on a multi-year journey where the destination will be an environment built largely by the players that win this installment of the browser wars. By setting the right long-term expectations, marketers can not only plot a viable, sustainable course, but they can also do so in a way that is respectful to all stakeholders and laser-focused on the evolving needs of consumers, whether they’re existing customers or prospects.

Michael Zacharski is CEO at EMX.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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