How brands can achieve thoughtful and creative connections with consumers –

The Socrates of San Francisco, Howard Luck Gossage, once wisely said, “When advertising talks about the audience, it doesn’t mean its audience, it means somebody else’s, gathered there to watch or read something else.”

However, over the past decade, the advertising industry developed an unhealthy obsession with “audience” and treating consumers as cookies or other identifiers that are shared and tracked across the internet. Ever-brilliant marketer Apple has captured this phenomenon beautifully in its Tracked video ad. Not only does the Apple ad visualize how truly invasive this “personalized” ad experience has been to consumers, but it is also a reminder that great advertising is an art. It’s compelling and cuts through the noise. It incorporates beautiful visuals and audio as well as smart copy.

As more of our lives moved online, the advertising pendulum swung away from that remarkable creativity and in the direction of data and audience. Thankfully, the commitment to privacy by the tech titans and global regulations on data are forcing another shift in the industry. The pendulum is swinging back into balance, where we have data-driven insights, but also thoughtful and creative connections between brands and consumers.

Even with Google’s recent decision to delay the deprecation of cookies on Chrome, marketers have to use the extra time to test methods for reaching consumers with privacy-safe advertising. Building creative bridges between your brand and editorial environments that appeal to prospective customers is a proven, authentic strategy:

Optimize your content

To say words are incredibly important is an understatement. They are the backbone of human communication. Most advertisers have a search engine optimization plan but still need a content optimization plan. This begins with building a content taxonomy or word map for your organization and various brands.

Build a list of the words and phrases that best capture your brand, your brand values and even your individual products. This is a critical first step to identifying the advertising environments that are relevant, suitable and align with those key attributes. Campaigns’ messaging and creative also must be developed in tandem with your brand’s custom taxonomy. Messaging and creative assets may vary between suitable environments, but should never stray far from your core topic map.

This type of content optimization plan and custom taxonomy is much deeper and more precise than the standard IAB Content Taxonomy, which is limited and cannot get as granular as specific category, brand or product words. The inevitable deprecation of the cookie is driving more investment in the precision of taxonomies for contextual targeting. Take advantage of this pressure that’s on the ad tech industry to gain a more granular understanding of the types of content that your prospects consume.

Build intelligence

While advertising has never really had its own audience, per Gossage, there is a unique opportunity right now to gather and analyze signals from audience-targeted campaigns to understand where your target market actually is an audience. Advertisers should use this time to find answers to such questions as: Where are your audience-targeted ads being placed? What do your loyal customers and prospects care about? What do they read, watch and listen to? How should the answers to these questions inform your creative and messaging strategies?

Building this intelligence from audience-based campaigns is essentially a modern-day, 360-degree focus group. While it’s still an option, advertisers can buy data to target audiences based on key demographic, behavioral and intent signals. Analyzing where these campaigns run builds a valuable playbook for where to place ads without requiring consumers’ data. Insights on these audience-based campaigns’ placements can also guide creative assets.

Volkswagen, still recovering from the brand shock of ‘‘Dieselgate,’’ is pushing positively into electric vehicles with the goal that by 2030 half of all VW cars sold will be EVs—such as the Porsche Taycan. The Taycan buyer is younger, lives in an urban area, likes design, architecture and all forms of technology. With those attributes in mind, Porsche enlisted Bill Nye the Science Guy as a spokesperson in spring 2021 and launched a series of short videos that explain complex topics like 800-volt battery technology, regenerative braking, two-speed transmission and aerodynamic design.

These topics could be mapped to build a custom content taxonomy for the brand. Porsche might consider including competitive EV model names in the taxonomy so that their ads could appear near content from competitors such as the Tesla Model S. Given their buyers’ interest in ever-evolving spaces such as design and technology, Porsche and Cramer-Krasselt would also want to ensure its content taxonomy stays dynamic to include the latest trends that are sparking buyers’ interest. Creating this taxonomy and understanding where its buyers are consuming content, Porsche might incorporate the Pantone Color of the Year or the latest sound system technology in its creative, as well as place ads near that type of content to reach their prospective buyers in the right mindset.

Audiences are listening

In the early 15th Century, audience was defined as “an assembly of listeners.” Since the audience isn’t gathered for your message, it is critical that marketers give them something that they want to hear at the right moment. Put strategies in place now to ensure your messaging stays relevant and timely—akin to advice that someone would receive from a best friend or wise counsel. This is important no matter how privacy regulations and policies change. Even with Google’s delay, many internet users may select a browser that already doesn’t use cookies—including Safari, Firefox, DuckDuckGo or Brave, before 2023. Leading brands are using time methodically to build intelligence on their market’s content profiles and to start activating content optimization.

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