When Dr. Martens, the classic boots brand, needed to reach a Spanish-speaking audience to promote its new new Spanish-language version of its e-commerce site in the U.S., it did what most brands would do—it worked with a publisher focused on the Hispanic community.
But the recent campaign was different than previous ones in that Dr. Martens also tested new ad technology that relies less on third-party cookies and more on direct data from the publisher, Digo, and Digo’s data partner Lotame. The campaign is a case study in how brands are planning for the post-cookie world, which is making it more difficult to target ads on Apple Safari, one of the first browsers to block third-party cookies. And within a few years, Google Chrome will follow suit. Third-party cookies are the computer files stored on browsers through which advertisers inform their ad targeting when a consumer visits a website.
Under the new privacy-focused internet paradigm, those third-party cookies are going away. They are being replaced by IDs from companies like Lotame, Merkle, LiveRamp and The Trade Desk, mixed with first-party data collected by publishers about their readers, creating a whole new infrastructure for running digital ads.
In Dr. Martens’ case, it was testing how it could still reach relevant audiences on Apple Safari browser and Google Chrome. The publisher Digo worked with Lotame’s Panorama ID to help.
“The audiences that they were able to build out, using that data, seemed like they were much more engaged with the ad content,” says Erika Clemens, digital marketing manager of paid media and search engine marketing, Dr. Martens. “And we were able to get more impressions. The click-through-rate was better, and the cost-per-click was less expensive.”
Lotame shared the results of its test with Digo and Dr. Martens. It showed how the ads performed on Apple Safari, which has no third-party cookies, and how they fared on Google Chrome, where the Panorama ID could still leverage third-party cookies. In both cases, incorporating the Lotame ID helped lower the cost to about one-tenth the cost of the ads when the ID isn’t used. The click-through-rate, how often a consumer clicked on the ads, rose tenfold, according to Lotame.
“This really validated the publisher opportunity to monetize owned-and-operated inventory where [the publisher] has control over code on their page to preserve that addressability across their own inventory,” says Alexandra Theriault, chief customer officer, Lotame.
Lotame’s ID works like many of the new ad IDs: The publisher passes through data on visitors from its site—the first-party cookies and other identifiers. The data from the publishers can include third-party cookies from browsers that still support them. All that data is used to fill out a picture of the consumer on the other end and decide whether a brand is a match to serve them an ad. The effectiveness of the IDs depends on a number of factors, including what data browsers and devices allow them to access. The IDs also depend on integrating with the most partners, direct publishers and ad exchanges.
The IDs help maintain some understanding of the consumer traveling across phones, computers, tablets and connected TVs. All those devices offer a fragmented picture of one consumer, who they are and their interests. The IDs are meant to unify the picture while also trying to respect privacy. There is still a lot of uncertainty if they can maintain that privacy.
With Google planning to also kill third-party cookies, publishers need to work on new types of IDs like the one Lotame is developing. The digital ad ecosystem is being built to favor the use of first-party data from brands like Dr. Martens and the publishers like Digo. But that first-party data from publishers only goes so far, that’s why they need data partners. For instance, a publisher might collect data on what a consumer does on their website. But what about everywhere else they have visited online and the other interests they hold, which might be the key to targeting an effective ad? Data companies help fill out the portrait.
The data companies also complete the data profiles for the brands that are advertising. Those brands bring first-party data like email lists and contact names from their clients. But what happens when the brands want to reach new customers outside their client lists? They need data and ad targeting to hit consumers that share characteristics and interests with their customers.
Merkle, a customer experience management platform that helps marketers make use of consumer data, is another company working on a new ad ID, which it calls Merkury. Merkle is like Lotame in that it needs partners like the publishers and ad exchanges to work with its ID in programmatic ad auctions. Last week, Merkle named its latest partner, Magnite, a supply side ad platform.
“Absolutely, there is a degradation in the recognition of audiences based on third-party cookies,” says Gerry Bavaro, Merkle’s chief strategy officer. “But we’re already testing these other identifiers and seeing a very good rate of recognition of that digital audience across publishers without reliance on third-party cookies.”
Lotame worked with Digo to identify three potential segments of consumers, each with different characteristics, so that the audiences would receive ads tailored to their tastes. Digo gave the consumer segments catchy names like “Nirvanas,” “Bad Bunnies” and “J.Los” for Dr. Martens to appeal to each one.
“Our data targeted for personas,” Lotame’s Theriault says. “That way they could find new customers [people who look like those personas] as opposed to having only first-party data to remarket to existing customers.”
“Preserving third-party cookies isn’t the goal,” Theriault says. “It’s improving upon what third-party cookies offered.”
As for Dr. Martens, the brand was motivated to try these new methods after Apple cracked down on how data is shared. This year, Apple updated its iOS software with iOS 14.5, which limited the sharing of its Identifier for Advertisers. “The iOS 14.5 update was definitely I think the kick in the butt for us to get moving,” Dr. Martens’ Clemens says. “Thankfully now we have a little bit more time before Google eliminates cookies form Chrome.”