With the death of third-party cookies looming in the minds of marketers, the industry is pushing towards new solutions that will help replace that data. But there are already existing strategies that marketers can take advantage of today that do not require cookies for precise targeting.
I sat down with Anthony Capano, Managing Director, North America at Rakuten Advertising – the leading advertising technology company – for a conversation about what marketers can expect with the death of third-party cookies, and how affiliates can help them provide them with a future-proof solution. , and much more.
Gary Drenick: With the death of third-party cookies on our doorstep, what do marketers need to succeed in the future?
Anthony Capano: We lose access to third party cookies because we have used them irresponsibly. Instead of taking advantage of third-party cookies to create authentic, personalized ads that enhance the consumer experience, we’ve turned to aggressive tactics that leave them feeling the ad is too annoying and intrusive.
As an industry, the loss of third-party cookies should be a wake-up call – authenticity is the only way forward to win over consumers. Marketers need to create ad experiences that take into account the many nuances of consumer profiles, from demographics and location to the context of the content they consume and what they might be doing at the same time. This means making more effort to understand who consumers really are – beyond what marketers might see at face value.
For example, a nutritional supplement company may know they are targeting an athlete, but they will be more successful if they can detect moments when that person is in the right mindset to receptive to advertising. While the consumer may indeed be an athlete, he may also be a mother, student, and wine lover. She’s a great person to target on paper, but she’ll be more receptive to complementary advertising when she’s watching a YouTube video from her favorite fitness blogger than when she’s been researching local wine tours on Google. It also means that brands need to customize their digital marketing strategies to optimize the right channels, platforms, and partners to reach consumers at the right moment.
Affiliate marketing is a powerful strategy to address these kinds of nuances in digital targeting…it gives advertisers control over where their content appears and insights into the context in which it is framed. Dynamic commissioning also provides advertisers with more tools that they can attract to stimulate target consumer behavior.
Besides enabling brands to do more sophisticated targeting, investing in digital marketing strategies, such as affiliate marketing, will also help them take advantage of the e-commerce boom that has come as a result of the pandemic. A recent Prosper Insights & Analytics study showed that nearly half (45%) of consumers believe the shopping habits they chose during the pandemic will continue going forward. By investing in affiliates, marketers will be able to capitalize on this trend and own a share of the portfolio in the long run.
Drenick: What makes affiliation a future-proof strategy?
Cabano: The affiliate company provides consumers with the authentic advertising experiences they have been asking for without any reliance on third-party cookies. Instead, affiliate marketing takes advantage of strong publisher relationships and targeting content to reach consumers at the right moments and environments when they are most receptive.
One of the most unique features of affiliate marketing is that it creates experiences that consumers choose proactively. With the rise of privacy regulation over the past few years, consumers have demanded more control over their advertising experiences, with many opting out of tracking enabling targeted advertising. But the data shows that consumers actively look for deals, influencer recommendations, and even ads when they add value to their shopping experience. This is more true depending on the category. A recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey found that 38% of people are influenced by digital media when making a purchase decision for electronics, and 32% claim the same for products in the apparel industry.
Because of the trusted relationship consumers have with publishers they turn to for reviews, recommendations, rewards, and more, affiliate marketing is an effective way to reach and influence consumers in an environment where they are not only receptive to advertising but also intent on buying, whether they are in the process of researching or buying from shopping trip.
By utilizing the affiliate, the same nutritional supplement company will be able to reach the target consumer in a way that is aligned with their priorities, interests, and behaviors. When you read a blog post about a high-performance diet from a trusted influencer, you’ll likely accept an advertisement for nutritional supplements that will help her achieve her goals—especially if it comes in the form of a blogger recommendation backed by an affiliate link. Beyond just contextually relevant, publishers like these have strong loyal readers to turn to for anything from general information, points of inspiration, and more. This includes recommendations for purchasing new products.
Drenick: How does the affiliate provide better advertising experiences for consumers?
Cabano: The control that advertisers have with regard to context in affiliate marketing is a major driver behind an affiliate’s credibility. Other advertising strategies, which have relied heavily on third-party cookie tracking, are great for brand awareness and reach. But beyond blacklisting and whitelisting sites and terms, marketers have limited control over the environments in which their ads appear. What sets the affiliate apart is the intimate experience it creates when ads align with content that a consumer is proactively searching for, in an environment that is comfortable and familiar to them.
By incorporating content into environments that are proven to be impactful, affiliate marketing creates advertising that is complementary to the consumer’s experience online, rather than being invasive and out of place. This seamless integration is more authentic and original to the reader, resulting in higher levels of engagement and better advertising performance.
Drenick: How will advertisers and publishers need to work together in the future?
Cabano: One of the biggest shifts in the advertising industry as a result of the loss of third-party cookies is the increased demand for first-party publisher data. Publishers now find themselves in a position of strength, because they hold the key to valuable consumer data that marketers could previously have easily accessed.
Marketers need to work closely with publishers and build better relationships in order to have a truly equal partnership. Across the Rakuten Advertising Network, we see publishers more motivated to share data with marketers who are investing in building a more equitable relationship between publishers/advertisers – including rethinking their commissioning strategies to compensate publishers for their influence on a purchase decision, regardless of whether it is the led to the last click or not.
Dynamic commissioning capabilities are not new to affiliate advertising, but last click referral is still dominant. This shift in favor of publishers, combined with the growing influence of content publishers and influencers, should be a call to action – it’s time to adopt more diverse commissioning strategies. It’s time to finally reward publishers for their full impact across the customer journey, but it’s time to approach affiliate marketing as a dynamic channel that can deliver a variety of business goals. Conversion is a huge benefit, but affiliates can effectively increase awareness, boost discovery, and inspire loyalty, all of which ultimately work together for greater ROI. As powerful as a strategy like affiliate marketing is, it is not being used to its full potential today.
Drenick: How does Rakuten Advertising help its clients navigate the post-cookie landscape?
Cabano: At Rakuten Advertising, we stand ready to bring success to both our advertisers and publishers without relying on third party cookies.
Within our affiliate network, we offer Rakuten Advertising Enterprise Web Services, a secure, reliable and flexible server-to-server tracking process that includes real-time reporting – all completely unaffected by cookie-blocking technology and the absence of third-party cookies.
Rakuten Advertising also enjoys a strong position within the vast Rakuten ecosystem and has access to first-party data across all Rakuten-owned properties – from OTT Viki streaming platform to online messaging app Viber, leading Rakuten Rewards and more. We’ve been able to harness this data to deliver better ad performance across our proprietary media properties and to provide customized targeting capabilities for affiliate marketing.
We are able to provide exceptional service to our advertising partners – backed by decades of experience and legacy knowledge, a wealth of first-party data and a huge global publisher network. In an environment where strong relationships with publishers are essential to success, our value is unparalleled.
Drenick: Thank you, Anthony, for taking the time to chat about affiliate marketing in the post-cookie world.