What Digital Marketing May Look Like in the Post-Cookie Era

In an effort to reduce the digital marketing industry’s heavy reliance on cookies for retargeting purposes, several publishers have begun exploring other options. In preparation for a “cookie-free” marketing era in which consumer data privacy is of utmost importance, other offerings are making an entrance in an effort to attract marketers.

One such example comes from The Washington Post, which recently introduced a new targeting technology geared towards digital marketing without cookies. Given the moniker Zeus Insights, the targeting technology is expected to offer up customizable options for advertisers seeking access to The Post’s audiences.

Zeus Insights touts its use of first-party data and machine learning to allow its technology to customize advertorial offerings for the best-predicted results with the given audience. With the decrease in accessibility to third-party data — data tracked on the internet in the form of cookies, for example — this option is attractive for those who don’t want to go in blind without insight into consumer behavior.

“User privacy is paramount to us, so we are deeply invested in building sophisticated tools powered by first-party data,” VP of commercial technology Jarrod Dicker said. “Zeus Insights goes beyond contextual targeting toward a cookie-less world, leveraging signals around a user’s consumption intent, including referral, session, and sentiment information, to offer what we think of as thematic targeting.”

The use of “contextual targeting” will likely become more visible in this new age of digital marketing. As marketers struggle to learn new technology and call in the strength of artificial intelligence, this new way of analyzing behaviors in order to create marketing strategies will require a higher amount of creativity. The Post will be a good testing ground for Zeus Insights, as the machine learning element of the technology will be able to analyze the reading behavior of audiences and create strategy suggestions around these trends.

Will we see more of this type of technology on the rise in the coming months? Absolutely. Customizable marketing will continue to be a topic of discussion among marketing professionals as we all seek to find the best solution with the removal of cookie access and retargeting. A heavier reliance on machine learning and artificial intelligence is also likely as we seek out new insights and metrics to measure the performance of our campaigns.

At its core, marketing studies the behaviors of consumers and the relationships they have with each other and with businesses. The ability to study this behavior isn’t going away altogether with the removal of the cookie, but rather those behaviors must be studied in a more organic environment rather than compromising their movements and privacy online.

Contextual targeting will be a prominent fixture in this new era of digital marketing, and in reality, this doesn’t look all that different than the retargeting we’re all accustomed to. By analyzing different, more publicly available data that illuminates consumer behaviors, marketers can create more intelligent advertorial offerings that will more easily — and authentically — connect with even the shrewdest of consumers.

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