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The way the cookie crumbles

30 Apr 2019  |  Carl Erik Kjaersgaard 
The way the cookie crumbles

For marketers clinging to the idea that cookies deliver the all-important missing piece of their data jigsaw, perhaps it’s time to think about letting go, writes Carl Erik Kjærsgaard

Just as consumers were getting used to clicking ‘I accept’ on every website they stumbled across, the cookie landscape looks set to change again. Does this mean marketers are going to be faced with a whole new set of customer data challenges, or could it in fact be a blessing in disguise?

Continuing the data power grab, the duopoly of Google and Apple look set to define the market once more by removing cookies altogether or refusing to support third-party cookies. Outside the infamous ‘walled garden’ of customer logins on these tightly controlled platforms, cookies were viewed as the only alternative to gaining a full customer view. With these gone, marketers are questioning whether they will have the best data to target customers effectively.

That’s not to say marketers are without data – they’re swimming in the stuff. Lakes, swamps, there is more data than anyone can really get a handle on. But therein lies what we call the data paradox. Despite this tsunami of information, many believe they still don’t have the data needed to get a robust output from models for decision-making.

But for marketers clinging to the idea that cookies deliver the all-important missing piece of that data jigsaw, perhaps it’s time to think about letting go. Multi-touch attribution (MTA) has its uses but the environment it served is changing so rapidly - it’s not suited to external influences and can’t react quickly enough to real-world events.

That change is only going to come faster and become more complex. New media channels, new publishers and new ways to buy media have tripled in the last five years which makes optimising for the future (and some might say, today) harder than ever.

So, we clearly have to question if MTA still fit for purpose – and only more so now in view of the potential disappearance of cookies altogether. And in that case, what’s the replacement?

It might seem like something of a leap to go from the relatively innocuous cookie into Artificial Intelligence (AI) but it is a much more realistic prospect than some believe. In many ways, it is the ideal solution to modelling the data paradox. The one thing successful AI depends on is volumes of data, constantly updating to feed the machine and help it learn.

Today’s AI is more than capable of making assumptions and using the data it receives to test and learn autonomously. It does this at a speed no human could ever replicate. But, that said, the role of the human is far from obsolete.

We may have the data lake and be losing the cookies, all the while picking up more and more complexity in the media landscape. AI can help with much of this but there are still gaps in its knowledge. While consumer behemoths such as Sky can create Sky IQ, the machine learning model that suggests content based on a viewer’s mood, most companies don’t have access to the sort of data that will allow AI to operate with complete autonomy. This is where human intelligence steps in.

The human doesn’t need to code for each and every possible action, but they do need to bring their expertise and market insight. Even, dare I say, their gut instinct. AI does not replace the human, it enhances them.

Future-proofing means having a model framework that is far beyond data analytics and can deal with the constant increase in complexity that marketers face. With the disappearance of cookies, marketers shouldn’t feel that they’re about to lose out to big technology and the Google/Apple duopoly and need to surrender themselves to walled gardens for evermore.

Instead, by embracing all available information – human and virtual – marketers can forget about cookies and instead, have their cake and eat it.

Carl Erik Kjærsgaard is CEO and co-founder of Blackwood Seven

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