Navigating digital seas in turbulent waters

In February 2020, we discussed upcoming changes to digital audience targeting and privacy, particularly concerning the degradation of third party cookies from Google platforms. So much has happened since then.

A crushing pandemic, social accountability movements, and changes to the political landscape have all drawn focus to the power and influence that digital platforms can have on how paid and organic messages are distributed, received, and shared by their citizenry.

Marketers must constantly attune the tone of their message to the environments where they are active, and consider how they may be perceived. They must also navigate changes to major ad tech platform policies, and a shifting regulatory environment. 

Distribution of misinformation was a key player in chaos that became the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath – resulting in the expulsion of world leaders and high profile political influencers from multiple social platforms.  

Sociopolitical divides, driven in part by social networks’ propensity to energize like-minded users, exacerbated a global public health crisis.

While Apple has instituted new privacy settings that have particularly affected Facebook advertisers’ ability to target certain audiences and track performance, it’s simultaneously attempted to work with law enforcement agencies by scanning customer photo databases stored in the cloud.

Google Chrome has pushed its depletion of third party cookies to 2023 while promoting its own first party data as the primary replacement (Google being one of the largest collectors of first party data). 

And as for the current issues concerning Facebook – well, that is fit for an entire post of its own.

That’s a lot to make sense of, for one year…
As marketers with honorable intentions, how do we move forward? What ad tech do we trust, while maintaining authenticity in how and where we speak to audiences? 

Some of these changes reflect ad tech corporations’ movement to promote safer user experiences, in an attempt to build user trust, while essentially making the quality of the user experience more dependent on the capabilities of their own platforms’ walled gardens.

Likewise, some publishers are working with industry partners to improve brand safety measures in digital content platforms.

On the marketer side, brands are adjusting to the media equivalent of “the new normal”. For example, Verizon’s Visible mobile carrier changed it’s paid media strategy to focus on building awareness through broader targeting, and driving efficient site traffic by hyper-focusing their messaging. This strategy relied on the quality of the user experience and user actions taken on site to build up first party data, in order to follow up through acquisition channels to make the sale. 

Kiosk has been planning ahead and shifting programmatic display strategies to incorporate more first party data from sources such as Dun & Bradstreet, which allows for more accurate audience segmentation. We also partner with vendors that create more engaging ad experiences in contextually relevant environments. Such tactics reduce reliance on third party audience targets. 

We’ve been studying the effects of Apple iOS changes particularly in relation to Facebook performance, and adjusted audience targeting parameters there as well as on LinkedIn – another platform that has recently changed the types of targeting segments available for iOS devices, resulting in a shift from “member interests” to “member skills.” 

Kiosk has been proactive in reporting and educating our clients on these changes and how they can stay ahead of them. We plan for alternatives that maintain the integrity of our targeting tactics, maintain the safety of our clients’ advertising environment, remain in compliance with industry regulations, and stabilize visibility into tracking, attribution, and performance in the face of these changes. 

As newer platforms like TikTok, Twitch, and Clubhouse continue to accelerate in popularity, it’s paramount for agencies and marketers to apply experience and foresight when navigating the best path forward for client campaigns (particularly when targeting younger audiences).

From the rise of new mobile-first platforms to tracking changes reshaping giants like Google, Kiosk will continue to work with our clients to establish new pathways for impactful digital marketing.