Google’s announcement of its Topics API earlier this year reaffirmed to marketers worldwide that the tech giant is still preparing for a world without third-party cookies. While the date of the cookie’s demise may have been postponed, ultimately its depreciation is inevitable. The proposal of Topics indicates that Google believes contextual targeting to be the solution to the resultant loss of targeting ability.
Google Topics aims to put the privacy of web users first, allowing advertisers to target consumers via their interests. This removes the ability to target on an individual level, but instead groups users together depending on the ‘Topics’ that they have shown interest in.
For advertisers who have already taken the plunge into programmatic digital out of home (DOOH), this privacy-secure targeting ability may seem familiar. Ironically, while Google Topics is fairly new, the parallels that can be drawn between Google Topics and programmatic DOOH demonstrate that the latter has already proven its effectiveness over and over again when it comes to targeting consumers with contextual advertising when the post-cookie era arrives.
Google’s Topics puts user privacy at the heart of its targeting. Instead of using cookies to track individuals, Topics instead targets consumers by their interests. Users are assigned five ‘topics’ based on their browsing history. Advertisers can then choose to target audiences made up of users that all share these interests.
This is similar to the ‘one-to-many’ targeting approach of programmatic DOOH. Powered by technologies built into DOOH inventory and using privacy-secure mobile ID data, marketers are able to measure the movement and behavioral patterns of audiences through signals such as affinity, personas, footfall density and dwell-time. Together, these can better track the intent of audiences, tracing their different interests by location and allowing marketers to measure purchase behavior effectively.
Marketers can use this data to track the habits and interests of different audiences. What train station regulars of a certain coffee shop head to, for example, or if fitness enthusiasts do their groceries after they’ve been at the gym. A better understanding of the habits and interests of desired audiences means programmatic DOOH campaigns can be triggered more effectively to reach them.
Additionally, media buyers can leverage predefined DOOH audience segments, derived from partners’ datasets, or create custom audiences based on multiple datasets, location data and even first-party data.
Both programmatic DOOH and Google Topics are able to identify receptive audiences, but in order to truly harness this functionality, delivering messaging in contextually relevant environments and situations is key.
DOOH has always had the power to target users in locations that are relevant. Programmatic technology supercharges this. Privacy-secure mobile data can give marketers a deeper look into the habits of shoppers, while precise tracking and ability to rapidly pivot campaign messaging means that ads can appear in the right place and at the right time.
By combining triggers such as the location, the time of day, audience density, the weather and even flight delays brands can pivot messaging to be more effective. A retailer, for example, could switch from advertising its summer clothing range to its range of rain gear in real-time, if a sudden shower occurred.
Similarly, Topics allows marketers to place ads where audiences will be most responsive to them. Marketers can access ad inventory that is contextually relevant to the 5 different topics that Google assigns to individuals.
Where programmatic DOOH truly excels is its ability to tie these disparate data points together in a way that allows marketers to better engage with audiences outside of the home and therefore maximize their spend.
Probabilistic modeling uses audience and location data to predict the most effective and contextually relevant times and places to reach consumers. This can then inform programmatic bidding strategies.
The depreciation of Google’s third-party cookie may have been delayed for now, but advertisers must still be prepared for the cookieless world. They will need to embrace a new world of targeting, one that blends personalization with privacy. Building lasting connections and brand loyalty with individual consumers as this shift happens will mean keeping the consumer at the heart of all strategies, and not simply pushing messaging to a mass market.
Contextual targeting is the core of the future of advertising. Both Google Topics and programmatic DOOH can bring this next phase into reality, and will allow advertisers to step confidently into this brave new world.