Given the level of disruption within today’s ad space, and the sheer number of fronts where agencies are being told to brace for change, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed to the point of paralysis. But for agency and holding company leaders right now, standing still isn’t an option.
When we look back on this moment two years from now, when the advertising identity landscape has been completely transformed, we’ll be able to identify why certain agencies were able to leapfrog others during the shift to a privacy-first world. And while no one has a crystal ball into exactly how the coming 18-24 months is going to play out in the global ad tech arena, I can tell you one thing for sure: The agency leaders of tomorrow will be the ones that are testing like crazy today. Here’s why.
Proprietary Cannot Suffice
Over the past two years, the market has been flooded with proposed solutions designed to address a cookieless world. The challenge, of course, is that very few of these proposed solutions come partnered with proof points. Much of the conversation is still happening within the theoretical realm, leading many to take a “wait and see” approach.
But here’s the thing: The silver bullet isn’t coming. There will be no one solution or alternate ID crowned king in the new ad tech landscape. Nor is it feasible to wait and see what the P&Gs of the world decide to do—because their approach is not going to be a fit for the vast majority of other brands out there anyway.
Going a step further, just as agencies can’t afford to take a “wait and see” approach to the identity landscape right now, they must also resist the urge to wall themselves off. As the advertising landscape braces for the deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome, it’s simultaneously scrambling to fill the already-significant gaps in audience understanding and targeting left by the loss of other identifiers, including Apple’s IDFA. That—coupled with the continued evolution of local, national and regional regulations toward consumer privacy by default—can make the concept of a controlled, proprietary approach to solving the identity challenge seem like a very appealing approach. And indeed, we’re seeing many agency holding companies head down precisely this path with the development of their own ID graphs.
Given the level of investment going into the development of these ID graphs, agency leaders can fall into the trap of viewing these solutions as “the” solution to the future of audience targeting for their clients. But in reality, these graphs are only going to be a part of a much larger orchestration effort.
Assembling the Other Pieces
In the context of the current upheaval, the advertising industry is transforming into a multi-ID landscape in which interoperability will represent the primary strategy when it comes to achieving both precision and scale with audience understanding, targeting and measurement. In that regard, now is the time for rigorous testing and experimentation to understand which tactics deliver results and under which circumstances.
Even the agencies incubating their own proprietary solutions need to be actively investigating how their solutions will plug into and perform in the context of the broader, multi-ID ecosystem. That’s because, quite simply, clients are going to demand it. They understand the growing complexity of today’s ecosystem, and they know it’s their job to operate fluidly within it—not to choose a narrowly focused path and stubbornly adhere to it at the expense of growth opportunities.
So test—test everything. Test the disparate IDs that are rolling out to the marketplace and see how and where they deliver results (and how well you can understand those results). Embrace contextual targeting solutions and evaluate their impact on brand and performance efforts alike. Diversify efforts across social platforms and emerging channels. Test, test, test, measure, and then test some more.
As agency leaders, this is the job—not to freeze in place or build walls. But rather, to try everything in hopes of understanding exactly what will serve the needs of clients best and in what scenarios—today and in the years to come.
This article was first published by AdNews.