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The Innovation Imperative: Rethinking media planning in a changing landscape


Ad Tech Contextual Targeting User Identity
Ad Tech Contextual Targeting User Identity

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Paul Wright, Head of Uber Advertising UKI, sizes up the cookie challenge and encourages the industry to embrace innovation  

Since 1995 with DoubleClick, the third-party cookie has reigned supreme in the digital advertising world. It fuelled targeted campaigns, built audience profiles, and delivered (hopefully) relevant ads to consumers. But as privacy concerns mounted, browser owners and tech companies have started to move towards its demise. At the same time, first-party data has come to the fore especially with the much-mentioned rise of retail and commerce media.

Is this the catalyst for a much-needed innovation boom in media planning and buying, much as digital did the same all those years ago? 

The cookie challenge 

Let's be honest, the cookie wasn't perfect. It lacked transparency, offered limited control for users, and fuelled concerns about data misuse. It also arguably led to the rise of ad fraud, Made for Advertising sites and a lack of transparency in media buys. Its demise, while potentially disruptive, could be a step towards a more ethical and user-centric advertising ecosystem.

However, the loss of targeting options the cookie presents a significant challenge. Advertisers fear losing the ability to reach the "right" audience, leading to wasted spend and decreased campaign effectiveness. This fear is understandable, but it shouldn't be paralysing. Indeed, much advertising works because it captures new customers who may not fit into a target market. Maybe the cookie allowed us to think we are targeting more effectively than we really were and more importantly took away the importance of context in media buys.

Embracing the future 

Instead of clinging to the past, let's view this as an opportunity to explore innovative solutions and shake up digital media buying for a new privacy driven world. Here are some possible solutions:  

1. Contextual targeting 

Shifting focus from individual users to the broader context in which they encounter ads can be a powerful approach. Understanding the content, sentiment, and intent behind a user's online activity can offer valuable insights for ad placement. Imagine delivering car ads on automotive websites or travel ads on platforms showcasing dream destinations. 

2. First-party data activation 

Brands with strong customer relationships hold a treasure trove of valuable data. Leveraging this data ethically and transparently can enable highly relevant and personalised campaigns without relying on third-party cookies. Think loyalty programs, purchase history, and opt-in surveys. 

3. Creative excellence rises again 

With less emphasis on hyper-targeting, the quality of the ad itself will become paramount. Compelling storytelling, emotional resonance, and strategic ad placement will be key to capturing attention and driving engagement. Remember, the power of a well-crafted ad transcends targeting limitations. 

4. Collaboration & transparency 

The demise of the cookie necessitates collaboration across the industry. Publishers, platforms, and advertisers need to work together to develop new targeting methods, measurement tools, and data-sharing solutions that prioritise user privacy and campaign effectiveness. Transparency and clear communication with consumers will be crucial in building trust. 

5. Embracing the unknown 

Let's be honest, the future of advertising without third-party cookies is still unfolding. It's an exciting time, but it also presents uncertainties. Instead of fearing the unknown, let's embrace it as an opportunity to experiment, explore, and push boundaries. 

The end of an era, not the end of innovation 

The death of the cookie is a significant shift and should be seen as an opportunity for innovation. 

It's a chance to break free from outdated practices and to explore new avenues. By focusing on context, first-party data, creative excellence, collaboration, and embracing the unknown, the advertising industry can emerge stronger, more user-centric, and ultimately, more effective. 

The future of advertising is not about clinging to the past, but about building something better, together. 

By Paul Wright, Head of Uber Advertising UKI


Uber’s mission is to create opportunity through movement. We started in 2009 to solve a simple problem: how do you get access to a ride at the touch of a button? Billions of trips later, we're building products to get people closer to where they want to be. By changing how people, food, and things move through cities, Uber is a platform that opens up the world to new possibilities.

Posted on: Tuesday 12 March 2024