Everything Old Is New Again!

It is no secret that the loss of third-party cookies will be extremely disruptive. Their preemptive removal is already causing waves across the ad-tech industry and for marketers that are paying attention. This has forced brands and agencies to perform a long-overdue audit of their data: what and how it is being used, where that data is coming from, and what permissions we have in place. Perhaps then it is no surprise that many are finding that after 10+ years of relying on third-party data as a shortcut to audience reach, they are left having to relearn who is engaging with their brand. 

In short: Brands are being forced to relearn some old habits. 

A Blast from the Past

When I was a young media planner, my days were often spent faxing insertion orders or reconciling billing. But during the annual planning season, I lived in tools like Simmons or MRI to do some audience work. The planning team would translate the qualitative and quantitative information performed by brand planners into an audience within these platforms, using Boolean Logic to combine demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data into a target that most closely resembled the audience research. Target in place, we’d then run that audience against a litany of questions to better understand their headspace, while also diving deep into media consumption across channels and publishers. 

Our output was a cross-section of data points that offered a general idea of who our audience was, where they spent their time, and across what platforms. By definition, it was never exact. But this information was crucial to finding spaces where a large percent of our audience gathered, or where they were more likely than the average person to be. Occasionally, this data would unlock new white space for our messaging, opening other doors for brand/creative positioning or media partnerships. 

Contextual and behavioral data points in hand, we’d set off to negotiate the plan. 

Back to the Future

Many of these practices took a backseat with the rise of programmatic media and cookie information, particularly with brands that required a bit of extra focus on conversion modeling and last-click attribution. Contextual or behavioral trend data just wasn’t as precise. 

Thankfully, ad tech has also evolved in the last 20 years. Just as we are no longer faxing IOs, audience research has also become more streamlined. Partners like Resonate have come to the table, disrupting the methodology on how audience research data is collected. 

Rather than asking recipients to fill out exhaustive surveys, Resonate bases its data on the recipient’s actual online behavior or site pixel data, making for a more accurate representation of the consumer. Further, Resonate target audience data can be exported into a Demand Side Platform (DSP), allowing brands to serve messaging across a variety of connected devices against the very audiences that a plan is built upon.  

No more translating a complex and intricate target audience build into Adults 25–54.

Wait, You Can Do What Now?

Let’s pause on this for a moment, because the advantage here can not be overstated: The target audience used for planning is the same target audience that can be used in your activation plan and media strategy. The very same target build that leads to a Big Idea and serves as the foundation for creative messaging can actually be used in a comms plan. 

Throughout my career and even to this day, brands have come armed with audience research that was gathered through very traditional methods. But those audiences broke down when it was time to go to market. Research may tell us that X% of the audience watched “Comedy Central” and that they were Y% more likely than the average American to do so. So “Comedy Central” was put on the plan, and you’d buy impressions against a target audience that was demographically close to your planning audience, and hope for the best. 

Planners were buying content in hopes of finding audience adjacency, but it was never certain. This is why we have words like “budget reconciliation” and “make-goods” in the traditional media planning lexicon. 

But now, since every device is connected to the internet, we can take that Resonate planning audience and push it through our programmatic ad platforms, guaranteeing that a media impression will be against only that audience, regardless of content. 

We’ve taken the guesswork out. 

Getting Smarter Along the Way

What is more amazing still with this approach is the ability to learn in real time and make our audience smarter. We do this by placing a few Resonate pixels across your site. Once in place, we can take those actual users and couple them with the same demographic, behavioral, and psychographic data we would use during planning. We can see how visitors differ from purchasers, and begin to understand what changes as a person moves through the purchase cycle. 

To track and analyze the actual behavior of your actual customers and make adjustments as necessary. It might seem magical, but it is not. It is just real-time market research on your actual customers. 

Perhaps it is a little magical.

Remembering the Past

As we plan for the ultimate demise of the third-party cookie, the time is right to begin revisiting some of these old media-planning behaviors, albeit with a new twist. 

This isn’t a new muscle, but for many, it is one that has atrophied. Rebuilding that muscle will take some time. 2022 will be a momentous year for testing and discovery, as brands prepare for cookie deprecation. As planning for ’22 gets underway, we strongly recommend taking the time to revisit audience insights to help guide contextual and behavioral testing. 

The Atlas team stands at the ready to help guide you through this process. 

Let’s get to work.