Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Post-cookie creativity is the reward for those who sat out the dark days of faceless automation

By Angelique Whittaker, UK Sales Director, Inskin Media 

When a convenience is taken away from us suddenly, we often wonder how we ever coped without it. When our phone runs out of juice; when there’s a tube strike; or when the lifts are down in the office, we momentarily panic. But we adapt, and quickly. And often we find the alternatives are generally better for us. Some enforced time offline, a bonus walk in the sunshine or some calories burnt on the stairs all have positive effects.

The same is true for the perceived conveniences that are already vanishing from our industry. Cookies are on the way out, IDFA is on the way in, and iOS 14.5’s App Tracking Transparency option is proving to be far more popular with the public than anyone really anticipated. 

So far there has been much anguish expressed over the almighty change that is in the process of taking place in digital advertising, but as the tectonic plates shift under us it is a chance to seek out new – and better – opportunities. 

In recent weeks we have seen a very welcome refocus on creativity in digital advertising. The launch by Xaxis, WPP’s pure play data business, of Xaxis Creative Studios (XCS), an in-house creative and interactive execution division, has sent a message to the industry that creativity is back in the spotlight.

The rise in programmatic gave way to a surge in faceless automation and while there are elements of these developments that have been phenomenal for the progression of the industry, there are others – such as the obsession with data and tracking – that no longer hold the appeal they once did.

The growing data depreciation means brands can no longer rely on many of the targeting methods they have used for the best part of a decade, and must start exploring new ways of working – and fast.  

One such opportunity comes in the form of contextual targeting, the brand safe, consumer-focused marketing approach that has, for too long, been overshadowed by techniques that have appeared more convenient.

Contextual targeting allows brands to run ads against pre-selected content and in a chosen environment, ensuring they are reaching people who are more likely to be interested in their message, based on the content they are viewing at that time.

However, crucially, developments in contextual targeting also now allow for various other factors to come into play, such as sentiment. AI enables the mood, tone and placement of an ad to be considered, while device, time of day and type of ad also come into play. 

For digital publishers this presents a huge opportunity to attract brands to their pages by offering impactful, memorable, creative formats that will leave an immediate and lasting impression. 

Creative can be designed to work perfectly with the context in which it is appearing, with messaging that speaks to the type of audience that are guaranteed to be visiting the site. 

And while this approach may be new to some younger digital ad execs, for many of us it is simply business as usual. Finding a safe pair of hands in their ad tech partners will stand any brand in good stead as they navigate the next phase of digital advertising. 

Any good partner will advise how to take the first steps into contextual targeting starting, for example, with a broad segmentation and refining it through the campaign, narrowing down the field gradually based on analytics, all of which will help ensure an optimisation of both effectiveness and scale. 

Similarly, by leaning on the experience of creative-first digital businesses a brand can get valuable clarity on exactly how they can strike the much needed balance between data, automation and powerful, memorable, creative advertising. 

The new normal in ad tech is now only just around the corner, but the future promises to be bigger, better and brighter for both brands and consumers.