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Prioritizing First-Party Data in the Cookieless World of Digital Advertising

First-Party Data Q&A - Blog

Third-party cookie deprecation — although delayed — still looms over the ad tech industry. However, marketers should see this transition as an exciting opportunity rather than a hurdle. Given cookies were built for single-device conversions (i.e., someone sees an ad and buys from the same device), they have long struggled as consumers increasingly added cell phones, tablets, laptops and more. 

The loss of third-party cookie data will elevate the importance of first-party data to advertisers.

To discuss the inevitable death of cookies and why first-party data is a much better alternative, we sat down with SVP of Platform Automation & Analytics Steven Ohrnstein.

Q: Steven, the cookieless world we’ve heard about for years is, finally, here. Can you remind us why it’s a good thing that cookies are sunsetting?

Cookies have been an inadequate option for a long time. Cross-site tracking leveraging cookies started in the 1990s, when consumers primarily used a single connected device (desktop or laptop). With the advent of smartphones and the meteoric rise of connected TVs, plus the adoption of IoTs (internet of things) devices, cookies have become increasingly obsolete. Cookies never existed on CTV, or mobile in-app environments, and Apple removed cookies in 2020 from Safari, the second-largest browser in the US. In addition, the average US household now has 17 internet-connected devices. So, the ability to measure cross-device has been an absolute must in the omni-connected world we live in today, and cookies simply have not kept up.

Q: Let’s move on to first-party data. Can you share what qualifies as first-party data and why it’s so valuable for advertisers?

First off, the holy grail for all marketers is to understand the impact of their media spend. Simply put, does investing in marketing have a positive return on ad spend (ROAS)? At which point does the marketer start recognizing the point of diminishing return or when the spend becomes wasteful? To answer these questions, every marketer is along some pursuit/journey to measure the impact of their marketing spend. Spending a small amount of a marketing budget on measurement can help inform marketing decisions that can save and/or grow millions of dollars of business.

Secondly, measurement is the ability to tie an ad exposure to a business outcome. Business outcomes are plentiful, from online engagements and purchases to offline store visits or in-store transactions. 

This is where, for advertisers, first-party data comes into play. The best business outcome is the actual event or transaction, and who better to have it than the brand marketers themselves? Instead of relying on pixels, third-party data (like foot traffic providers) or other data aggregators, the brand knows who purchased on their site or in-store. In terms of what qualifies as first-party data, it could be the physical transaction containing name, address and/or email address. It could be the server-side data the brand’s website collects when customers explore their website. 

Q: We recently published a case study about how a national insurance company optimized its first-party data with Viant and saw some great results. Can you share more about that success story?

Yes, like any insurance company, they are looking to measure the effectiveness of their marketing spend on driving net-new customer quotes and new policy sign-ups. Rather than rely strictly on third-party pixels, which are increasingly becoming more impacted due to initiatives like Apple’s Private Relay, the insurance company leveraged a CDP (customer data platform) like Tealium, Klaviyo or SAP Customer Data Solutions to securely send Viant their buying signals into Viant’s Data Platform. Then, the national insurance company’s encrypted first-party data was seamlessly picked up and used as a conversion point within Viant’s Advanced Reporting Conversion Lift solution. As a result, the insurance company was able to measure 2X more conversions and better inform their marketing buy. 

Q: Viant also just released our new Data Platform. Can you talk about how this is already proving to be a win for advertisers?

Yes, Viant’s Data Platform makes it seamless to securely pass first-party data from a brand/agency to Viant to be leveraged for various use cases surrounding target, measurement and audience insights. As noted above, Viant’s Advanced Reporting Conversion Lift solution leveraged the National Insurance Company’s data as a conversion point. 

Q: As first-party data takes center stage in the cookieless era, how do you see marketers using it for an even greater impact this year and in the future?

Marketers’ use of their first-party data boils down to better targeting and measurement. First-party data can become a seed segment for machine learning to help grow a brand’s customer base; this can better inform future marketing budgets and efficiently reach people more likely to engage with a brand’s message. First-party data can also yield general audience insights to help marketers better understand the composition of their existing customer base, which could be leveraged for targeting. On the other side, as discussed above, first-party data will become the focal point to help a brand understand its true ROAS, lift and incrementality of its marketing spend. 


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