By Ngozi Egenuka
For the digital advertising industry, planning for 2024 is unlike any other year. It is going to be, in a word, dynamic. The industry is heading into an unusual transition that will affect the fabric of the open web ecosystem: the forced, fast and complete transition away from the third-party cookie for targeting and measurement.
Google has the power to deprecate third-party cookies in Chrome unilaterally, meaning that the industry does not have the choice to keep using the cookies. This move is intended to happen within just six months during the second half of 2024. Instead of transitioning over years, the industry will have to adapt quickly.
In the end, third-party cookies for targeting and measurement will be gone — not just diminished or lingering behind the scenes. Of course, this assumes that Google will adhere to its cookie deprecation timeline.
Post-cookie deprecation, billions in programmatic ad spend, will need to shift. Since it first announced the retirement of cookies from Chrome in January 2020, Google has twice pushed the timeline from its original target of early 2022. As a result, many in the industry remain skeptical that it will move on its current plan. Antitrust scrutiny from the U.K.’s CMA and questions about the readiness of Google’s Privacy Sandbox technologies could disrupt Google’s plan.
According to eMarketer, more than $123 billion in programmatic advertising is transacted via real-time bidding on the open Internet. Using this as an approximation of ad spending bought against audience data, including cookies, is fair. This means that starting in July 2024 and by the end of the year, more than $123 billion of programmatic ad spending needs to shift to new targeting and measurement technologies. That is a massive amount of ad dollars that needs to shift in a very short space of time. While there may be further changes to Google’s timeline, teams shouldn’t assume Google would delay things at this stage.
From alternative IDs to new behavioural targeting tech, stakeholders must plan now for a smooth transition. Indeed, all participants in the digital advertising community must develop 2024 plans that incorporate the assumption that between July and December 2024, the third-party cookie will cease to exist. For business continuity, all ad spending, technologies, business processes, products and services powered by third-party cookies must be transitioned to alternatives.
Brands, agencies, publishers and ad tech companies are all in the midst of their 2024 planning cycle. Since the cookie will cease to exist during that planning horizon, the industry can ignore it no longer and must incorporate it into 2024 plans.
For instance, Distillery is taking a number of steps to prepare itself and its clients for the transition. This includes making audiences available in UID2s and exploring other alternative IDs. Success with UID2 technology will also require more effort, including innovative, first-of-its-kind, behavioral targeting technology — called ID-free, in this case — which complements these alternative IDs and extends their reach.
The industry must work with its data and activation partners to understand their plans and how stakeholders can work together to minimize disruption for their client brands and agencies. Partnerships that succeed will provide as seamless a transition as possible. As 2024 is a crucial year for marketers — change is coming, and teams must adapt — it will also be a challenging year where open-mindedness, confidence and curiosity will be rewarded in the new programmatic landscape.
As a matter of fact, the marketing landscape has continued to evolve by the day owing to a lot of factors such as, technological advancements, changing consumer behaviours, regulatory changes and more. Marketing experts have, however, said that understanding the latest developments would help a marketer formulate effective strategies to boost business development and enhance brand value, which is imperative to staying relevant and competitive in today’s ever-changing market. Advertising leader and global creative Jolomi Awala, at a media parley, said that people who master AI would most likely have edge over others as it would complement human-led survey testing, enabling cost-effective, scale-able, and speedy testing.
For Awala, the past year has been challenging for marketers owing to an unpredictable economic environment, which necessitated budget reassessments, cost reductions, and a renewed drive aimed at profitability. Unfortunately, the outlook for 2024 does not appear significantly brighter.
He, however, noted that in 2023 Nigeria had great results in the creative industry, citing headline shows held by Nigerian artists in UK and America as well as the Grammy Awards nominations as examples.
Awala listed Artificial Intelligence (AI), human-centric innovation, omni-channel integration and micro influencing as trends that would shape the marketing and creative industry in 2024. “While human testing fosters critical and creative solutions, AI testing allows for multiple variations of the same ad, aiding in understanding its performance across different digital placements or smaller markets,” he said.
Integrating AI with marketing transforms how companies analyze data, personalize customer experiences and optimize campaigns. For instance, AI-powered chatbots and messaging apps are revolutionizing customer interactions by providing personalized experiences and instant solutions, which helps build more authentic customer connections.
According to Forbes Business Development Council member, Lomit Patel, giving hints to what will shape this year’s marketing space said AI-powered marketing tools such as chatbots, voice search optimization and predictive analytics, will become even more widespread. However, business leaders must avoid relying solely on “set it and forget it” automation strategies and enforce a more collaborative approach between humans and AI.
Immersive technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) can help to create immersive brand storytelling and consumer engagement avenues. “In 2024, I expect these technologies to integrate with strategic marketing efforts more deeply. E-tailers can improve their brand value and customer experience, for example, by offering virtual try-on experiences,” said Patel.
Brand and Marketing Communications Strategist, Alvena Ode, also believes that the landscape of brand marketing is poised for transformative shifts this year. She said in an era where consumers could readily discern AI-generated content, the need for genuine, relatable narratives is paramount. “Authenticity in storytelling has become the linchpin for successful marketing,” Ode noted. “The ability to connect with audiences on a personal level is directly proportional to a brand’s capacity to influence purchasing decisions. As the bar for authenticity is raised, businesses are investing more than ever in crafting narratives that resonate with the human experience. This storytelling approach not only captures attention but also establishes a genuine connection that transcends the transactional.” They also noted that data’s pivotal role in shaping marketing strategies is more evident than ever. While automation streamlines activities, data-driven insights are indispensable for tracking, monitoring, and converting marketing efforts effectively.
Simultaneously, brands are prioritizing transparency in their marketing endeavours, addressing concerns about data privacy. Open communication regarding data usage and ethical practices is emerging as a cornerstone in building and maintaining consumer trust. In 2024, the synergy between data-driven insights and ethical marketing practices will be fundamental for brands navigating the dynamic landscape, they said.
According to Patel, “companies that adopt robust data privacy practices and transparent data policies will gain a competitive advantage. It will be essential for businesses to implement secure data collection and storage methods, obtain explicit consent and comply with evolving privacy regulations to maintain customer trust and loyalty.”
As consumers become more vigilant about how their data is handled, businesses that demonstrate a steadfast commitment to protecting personal information will not only navigate the complexities of data privacy but fortify their reputation as trustworthy custodians of customer data.
On human-centric innovation, he said that brands that display more empathy and kindness at scale messaging, storytelling and story doing, would amass consumer trust and patronage. He said this approach would take an omni-channel integration and retail media growth approach as brands will witness enhanced measurement, hyper-personalization, as they adapt to the decline of third-party cookies.
“In 2024, brand messages must live and breathe across multi-dimensional touch points at the same time. Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) brands are expected to offer price deals to expand their loyalty databases and supporting customer retention,” Awala said. He stated that more brands would invest in micro-influencers rather than the conventional mega, macro and nano influencers. He said modern consumers want more than endorsements; they crave genuine and authentic relationships with influencers. This shift will likely drive the growth of micro-influencers — individuals with smaller but highly engaged followings.
According to Awala, “it’s been established that mega influencers with huge following don’t necessarily motivate people to buy. While they might be great for drawing awareness and visibility to the brand, the rippling effects of micro-influencers is what will get people to buy. There must be a concerted effort by businesses to create a pool of Micro-Influencers in 2024 to succeed.” Awala added that the continuous pursuit of a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour remains at the heart of effective marketing strategies and would give businesses an edge.
Ode said because consumers are becoming more discerning about the authenticity of influencer endorsements, 2024 will usher in the era of niche influencers. “These influencers may have smaller followings, but their engagement levels are off the charts. Businesses are realizing that smaller, more impactful followings can often lead to tangible results. The emphasis now shifts towards influencers who wield authentic influence, providing a cost-effective strategy that truly resonates,” Ode said.