Creative and Audience Modeling Should Be Front and Center | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

Creative and Audience Modeling Should Be Front and Center


Third-party cookies are finally set to deprecate on Chrome in 2024, but the industry is still reluctant to change. So long as cookies remain available, advertisers, publishers, and their partners will continue to rely on a soon-to-be-old, data-rich way of targeting audiences.

But the period when advertisers could generate performance primarily by leveraging granular data on each customer will come to an end. And to meet the demands of the new status quo, advertisers need to test alternative solutions. The question now is, with scalable user-level data drying up, what factors and technologies will step in to fuel advertising performance?

The linchpin of digital advertising going forward won't be yet another form of third-party user tracking, though first-party data will play a role. In a back-to-the-future twist, it will be creative — and the AI-powered modeling that, in the absence of third-party cookies and mobile IDs, allows it to be effective.

Why the Third-Party Cookie Is Actually Dying

Advertising has become unpleasant for the end user, who is the foundation of the advertising ecosystem that maintains a free and open internet. Not only has advertising often been driven by data collected without consumer consent, but it's also been distracting, poorly targeted, and low-quality.

The next era of advertising needs to remedy these errors. Recreating one-to-one behavioral targeting isn't the answer, nor is it feasible. The answer is better ad experiences that are relevant to audiences and fit into the content environments with which audiences have chosen to engage — instead of detracting from them.

What the Future of Advertising Looks Like

Over the past 15 years of relatively unrestricted data collection and collaboration, advertisers have been able to use highly precise individualized data to bombard users with targeted ads and generate conversions. With the third-party cookie and mobile IDs going away, this will no longer be an option. Instead, advertisers need to go back to their roots, investing once more in creative.

But the return to creative doesn't mean leaving data or the past two decades' learnings about audience targeting behind. We're not going back to the "Mad Men" era. On the contrary, the task will be to generate effective creative in real-time based on flexible and engaging ad formats, contextual intelligence (or analysis of the content environments in which ads are appearing), user signals, and the data science required to tie them all together.

How AI Will Drive Advertising's Future

If the past decade or so was the advertising era of relentless retargeting — which was effective but also exhausted and creeped out audiences — the next decade will be an era of AI-powered dynamic creative optimization. Advertisers and their partners will obsess over how to generate top-notch performance without personally identifiable information. AI will have a large role to play in making that possible.

AI has three critical advertising applications:

  • Streamlining production by enabling the generation of multiple creatives at scale, leading to reduced costs
  • Dynamically optimizing creative, reducing waste by cutting out poorly targeted and ineffective impressions
  • Creating reusable creative templates that greatly simplify production.

For example, an advertiser will be able to generate hundreds of versions of the same ad in seconds, test which ones best perform based on different signals, and then optimize over time to drive superior performance — all without knowing exactly who is on the other end of the ad.

Going forward, there will be a lot of hype surrounding AI, and every adtech company will try to attach itself to the AI-driven future. Ultimately, what matters is AI's impact on ad performance. Superior audience modeling and creative optimization will be the levers that generate that performance. For advertisers and publishers, that's what counts. Everything else is, like a badly curated ad, a distraction.

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

Alistair Goodman is CEO of Emodo.