Point-of-Care Perspectives from PatientPoint

Mind over matter: How contextual advertising succeeds in a cookieless world

by Andrew Schultz

As Google phases out third-party cookies on its Chrome browser (a move Firefox took in 2019 with its Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) and Apple’s Safari browser made in 2020), the challenge for digital marketers remains: how to develop campaigns that deliver relevant, actionable content to hyper-targeted audience profiles. That’s especially relevant during a time when consumers’ desire for personalized experiences and increased privacy is so high.

One solution is to cast a wide net to gain impressions or an accidental click, and perhaps not much else. According to eMarketer, more than 90% of digital ad-display spending happens through automated software. The result, according to The New York Times, is a “junk-ad epidemic,” where—likely due to lack of robust audience profiles—advertisers go all in on ad buys and spray-and-pray approaches, versus the sophisticated targeted digital buys of days past.

The reality is, marketers have never had control over whether consumers accept or decline cookies while browsing, and only about 10% of U.S. adults refuse cookies on their own devices anyway. And good digital marketers never base their entire audience segment on cookies alone.

It’s true, the loss of one key piece of behavioral data does present a bump in the road when it comes to targeting. But it’s a bump, not a blockade. In fact, it may be a ramp to a new opportunity.

It’s the thought that counts
Yes, we’re losing the ability to remarket and retarget via conventional digital marketing tactics, forcing our messaging to resonate the first time our audience sees it. Turns out, that’s a win-win, because nearly 63% of U.S. online users have had negative reactions to website ads when they’re “irrelevant or intrusive.”

Why do we struggle to deliver relevant advertising when we have so much information about the people we are trying reach? Why are we not paying attention to the context in which we are reaching them? Maybe because our audience segmentation has long focused on what our targets are doing instead of what they are thinking.

The health and wellness space is a perfect example of the importance—and power—of contextual advertising. No one wants to be served up ads for the latest eczema treatment while browsing the web for sweet deals on Cyber Monday. According to research by PatientPoint, along with Magna Media Trials, the intelligence and investment arm of IPG Mediabrands, health-conscious consumers reported feeling overwhelmed by prescription drug ads that appeared while they browsed online because they’ve “seen these types of ads too many times in this setting.”

But you know when people do want to see those eczema ads? When they’re in the waiting room at their dermatologist’s office. The same study revealed 58% of respondents prefer to receive prescription medication information at the the point of care (e.g., on waiting room screens, directly from their health-care provider, etc.) versus via such other channels as websites, health portals, social media and television.

Receiving relevant messaging in the right moment is key to prompting action. It’s the entire premise that drives remarketing and personalization.

Context is the new currency
Imagine knowing with confidence that the right message is getting to the right person—the first time. No more guessing, no more wasted marketing dollars. Now, imagine the experience as an audience member. The experience of viewing advertising in this scenario isn’t frustrating or creating a nuisance. It’s helpful. The opportunities are endless to tailor creative messaging down to the individual, creating real human connections with brands.

With precision audience targeting using first-party data, that imaginary scenario is very much possible. While it’s a different approach than the broad reach of cookie-based targeting, deterministic targeting affords the next wave of engagement and packs a lot of promise. It’s time for marketers and brands to search out partners that provide access to the first-party data most relevant to their targeting needs. This is the future that the disappearance of cookies is helping us discover—personalized marketing based on context, not convenience.

Developing a more refined target audience segment and shifting to using deterministic data is key to overcoming the great cookie conundrum. As consumers have more control over what they see and when, the pressure is higher than ever to deliver highly personalized, relevant messaging in the moments that matter most.

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