Make Way for Interest-Based Targeting


The loss of identity-based solutions is an opportunity for marketers

The challenge

With Apple’s iOS 14 update, GDPR and Google phasing out third-party cookies next year, the online landscape is shifting toward more consumer-friendly tracking options. This also means new challenges for the advertising industry.

With fewer signals to navigate by, the ability to fine-tune messaging at the level of an individual ad, or to track consumers online with surgical precision, is slowly going away. As a result, we are entering a new phase of media planning and buying, one still searching for solutions and countermeasures. An entire niche segment of thought leadership around this topic has sprung up to discuss new and innovative ideas to counter signal loss and make sure brands are ready for the new reality.

The move away from an identity-driven approach to advertising presents an opportunity to focus on alternatives that are in many cases already available and do not require marketers to reinvent the wheel.

The process

Tech companies moving away from identity-driven advertising models is a good forcing function for marketers to learn about alternative approaches and begin implementing them.

With the decline of the social graph, which focuses on people’s relationships, the interest graph is gaining momentum and meaning. Interest graphs connect people interested in or passionate about the same topics, activities, products and brands. This is a big opportunity for marketers to lean into interest-driven target audiences.

As a first step, marketers should look for partners and platforms that let them identify what people are interested in instead of who they are. Pay attention to the conversations that unfold in these places to identify how your brand could fit in and what kind of messaging will resonate.

Target audiences are not homogenous in their media consumption. Also take into account how their media habits change when traveling, commuting, working from home or using a mobile device vs. a desktop computer. Depending on these factors, content needs to either be short and snackable or longer and more in-depth. 

People should not have to surrender their personal information in order to be targeted.

Next, marketers need to embrace a full-funnel approach driven by sequential messaging that guides audiences down the marketing funnel from awareness to consideration to conversion. This is important because while the funnel is very linear, customer journeys are not. The decision-making process unfolds over time and across many different touch points.

Interest-based, contextual and keyword targeting solutions also allow marketers to identify and market to consumer cohorts in a privacy-safe way. People should not have to surrender their personal information in order to be targeted when alternative solutions focused on interest-based targeting are available. 

A sequential messaging approach guides these cohorts down the funnel, and it’s shockingly straightforward. All you do is answer the what, why and how behind your brand, product or service. Compare it to introducing yourself to someone and explaining to them what you do before asking them for a favor.

Leverage reach-focused solutions to send a message that creates awareness and primes the audience for the brand or product. Then leverage on-platform signals such as views, clicks or comments to re-engage audience members who were exposed to or engaged with the brand with a message about a product benefit or USP. Finally, serve people a conversion-focused message such as a specific product or deal. 

The takeaway

Brands can introduce themselves to a homogenous audience first before introducing a product or service and its benefits, allowing people to learn more before serving a message or deal focused on making a purchase.

This approach also enables a brand to add value to conversations and communities that unfolded around a category or a passion. By controlling for frequency and consistency in creatives over time, brands are able to build multi-chapter stories for their audiences.

As the industry grapples with signal loss, it is important to remember that impactful solutions and alternatives are available today. As marketers embark on the next chapter of digital advertising, be sure to look for partners that offer privacy-first solutions with the right tools to craft a sequenced full-funnel marketing strategy. This proven approach has the potential to be a game-changer for marketers that creates more peace of mind in the face of worries about a cookieless future.

This article first appeared in

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