How Are Digital Ad Platforms Changing Because of Data Privacy Laws?

June 16, 2021


We’re back with another episode of The Digital Marketing Troop.

Paid media expert Haley Nininger explains how changes in data privacy affects the performance of advertising on Google. In this episode, we talk about:

  • New layers of filtering dramatically impact the size of your target audience
  • Why you should take a “full funnel” approach to advertising
  • Ways to create more opportunities for value exchange 
  • How to approach, measure, and improve platform strategy with actionable tips

    Listen and subscribe to learn how your paid media strategy should be ready for 2021, the year of consumer data privacy.

John Tyreman:  Hi gang, welcome to The Digital Marketing Troop, where we talk about changes and trends shaping the world of digital marketing. I’m your host John Tyerman and I’m joined today by Haley Nininger, Paid Media Account Manager at Silverback Strategies, and we’re here to talk about what we’re seeing on the ground with ad platform changes as they transition away from the use of third party cookies and respecting user ad preferences. But Haley, I’m curious, you mentioned on a call the other day that you live in Richmond, Virginia, and there’s an awesome food scene down there. So, if someone really wanted to visit Richmond town, what’s your number one spot that you would recommend they go?

Haley Nininger:  I would have to 100% give a plug to Mom’s Siam 2. If you’ve ever heard of it, it is the best little hole in the wall, Thai restaurant, downtown Richmond, and they have some crispy chicken fried rice that is to die for. I don’t know how I lived without that fried rice before I tried it, but if anybody’s visiting to come through, that’s the spot to go.

John Tyreman:  That’s awesome. If I were to pick one, too, it’d be the sticky rice. So we’re both on the Asian food there, that’s awesome. Cool, so Haley, we’re talking today about some of these changes that we’re seeing on the ground in these ad platforms, and you mentioned something in a Slack thread the other day that really caught my eye about filtered and unfiltered users and for listeners who might not know, can you explain what a filtered or unfiltered user is on a platform, let’s say like Google?

Haley Nininger:  Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s probably best illustrated, maybe it’s the example itself. So, I was having issues with a customer match list upload that I had given maybe a week or so. It just would not populate, couldn’t get any data out of it. So I decided to reach out to Google, to support, and I was educated on what the, what kind of feels new, matching process. And so my list contained about 1200 users which is above the best practice of 1000 members. And out of those 1200, 1100 were unfiltered. So an unfiltered user is going to be defined as any member of the Google network, Google properties and active Google user. And then from those 1100 folks, they were filtered again for any members that were either flagged as a violation of personal advertising policy, which we’re really familiar with or newly added a segment of people that have now opted themselves out of tracking or ad personalization. So, that factor cut my list from 1100 people down to 300 people. So of those 300 that were leftover, Google really only populates those who are daily active users on Google properties, and that ended up being less than 100 people, which essentially made my entire list completely useless.

John Tyreman:  So, why do you think these match rates are falling so dramatically?

Haley Nininger:  Yeah and, and that’s a great thing to bring up too, because my match rate, in this particular instance, was 90%. So in this particular instance, that’s much higher than average, I would say. You know, Google determined and reported that 90% of my list was matched to a user was usable but because of the rigor of the filtering process that I think is really only going to increase, it did end up essentially being useless. When we talk about match rates, that is the metric that we typically use to measure Google’s ability to analyze the larger Google Network and determine that of the inputs that we’ve entered, first names, last names, emails, whatever kind of data we’ve got access to, how many of those is Google able to identify within the network, how many of those, is it going to be able to match to its systems. And I think that these match rates are falling now and will continue to fall because Google is losing a little bit of the visibility that it once had, and to people that have kind of opted out of those people that, you know, didn’t really have the identifiers or like the individuals that were not previously opted in to add personalization. So those match rates are going to continue to be an issue for us.

And in this particular case, I think it was a pretty, it was a pretty small list, it wasn’t too impactful for me and my use in this case, but I think that the implications here could be pretty significant for some businesses. Some businesses simply don’t have that infrastructure to collect such large lists of data, maybe they’re a bit more niche, a bit more specialized and kind of accustomed to that relatively low volume they’re bringing in, or maybe they’re just simply asking a bit more from users to collect that data. So I think in terms of what companies can do, I think that there’s three main things that we want to focus on. First is to start giving a little bit more consideration to the whole funnel. Paid search has historically been a really large focus for businesses and is oftentimes a really great bottom funnel and lead generation stream, but as the industry evolves, exploring some of those higher funnel tactics such as display, maybe YouTube, as kind of a larger piece of your digital marketing strategy, I think will really help you not only boost awareness but also some of that credibility, motivate your audiences to interact with you, make them want to give you their business, or maybe in this case their information, so we can leverage that efficiently at those lower funnel channels. 

I think the second thing is going to be to create new exchanges of value between your business and your audience. 2021 is definitely going to be the year of privacy, and digital audiences are getting smarter. You don’t have to really be in digital anymore to understand what’s happening with your data behind the scenes. As our audience grows a bit more skeptical about handing over their personal details, businesses are going to have to think and and think hard about what they’re providing in exchange for that data. Gated content is really just going to have to be top notch to continue to compete in a day and age when not only marketers but your average daily consumer is kind of looking at their data as a currency exchange. 

And I think the last thing I’ll touch on there is just embrace it, you know? Get creative with the whole situation at hand. With the ongoing rollout of privacy legislation, I truly believe that the industry is never going back. And in that case, one of the worst things I think businesses can do right now, is try to spend time searching or looking for a workaround that’s ultimately just going to be unsustainable. Privacy is going to be here to stay and I think that that means businesses now need to start thinking about how they can tap into additional streams of first party data. Have you leveraged Facebook lead ads in the past? Have you leveraged LinkedIn lead ads in the past? Lead form ad extensions? Is there any untapped areas that really strategically fit in with your business and what else can you try? I think that we’re all kind of learning together right now and it’s a great time, maybe the best time, to get creative and test new things that maybe you would not have considered before.

John Tyreman:  That is an awesome synopsis of what’s going on and I just want to unpack that a little bit just so I understand. So it’s not necessarily that match rates are falling dramatically right now, it’s that those contacts are matched but, I guess you could call it the filter rates, the rate at which those users are filtered out is making it so that you need a higher volume of contacts to upload to create these look alike audiences, which means that you need to harvest more data from more of your audience. I love the points that you made about really building trust at the top of the funnel or beginning of the customer journey, however you want to visualize it. And then the new kind of value exchange in exchanging information for content. And I want to ask you about that one point you mentioned, Facebook lead gen ads and then I think Facebook’s rolling out, integration with CRMs in the future. What new kinds of ways do you see that maybe companies can test to collect first party data themselves?

Haley Nininger:  Getting creative, again, with some of the methods and tactics you’re pursuing. So if you never had thought about entering maybe a webinar type of space, hosting a webinar is a really great way to engage your audience and also prove yourself as a thought leader in the space, giving people more information about not only the business itself, but the area of expertise. And people, a lot of times, especially now in a more remote environment, are willing to kind of give at least some baseline details to attend a webinar and learn a little bit more, as we’re looking for those opportunities of education. So webinars, I think, are a really good, untapped area for a lot of businesses. And not only that ,but just some additional gated content aside from your everyday white paper. If there are some templates that you think would be valuable or some best practices or something, even interactive, kind of a plug and play solution for others, that helps you stay top of mind that helps you provide value for somebody that is giving you your information, and that helps you just want to be able to engage with your audience and fill that need for them so that when it does time to consider something a little bit more professional or a higher level of expertise, you’re there and top of mind when they’re ready.

John Tyreman:  Those are great points. Based on this direction that the ad platforms are taking, and I think you painted a really good picture about what companies can do to kind of embrace and overcome this change, what other changes do you expect to see or have you heard rumblings about that are coming down the line on these various platforms?

Haley Nininger:  One, which we’ve done a really good job of, I think is encouraging the increased implementation and will be the growing importance of offline conversion data. So we’ve been encouraging our clients for a while to kind of collaborate with us in implementing those integrations that will allow us to pull win data or other types of offline conversion data directly from the business’s CRMs. And of course, from our perspective, that gives us really good insights into the segments of the account that are driving return, instead of just volume. A lot of businesses at this point agree, I would say, that quality trumps quantity, especially when it comes to leads, but not only from an insights perspective is they’re going to help us make more meaningful optimization decisions. That’s also going to protect a lot of businesses from having to over rely on third party pixel data which is going to become less and less meaningful and less and less, you know, I hate to say accurate, in the future. 

So I think that that will be a big one, and another one that I’ve heard a lot about and I think is going to be a huge learning curve, not only for advertisers but businesses in the space, is going to be the migration, more so away from those third party pixels to server side tracking or first party tags. And I think this has been a huge push over the past few months. Google of course, we’ve heard all about the FloC which is essentially Google’s plan to kind of, anonymously categorize users into cohorts. Not only that but Google’s been making updates to their G tags and GTM, their tag management solutions, that is gonna place first party tags right there on site. And just most recently, Microsoft announced a kind of private search for Bing, which is something that DuckDuckGo, a part of the Microsoft ecosystem is actively using, which is really similar to that of incognito mode on Chrome as those people are familiar with. So a lot of these kind of larger entities in the space are starting to formulate their own solutions and what that might look like and I think that this is going to be a really long iteration process. A lot of us, not only advertisers, businesses, but those larger players, we’re all learning together, alongside each other and it’s gonna be really important for us to kind of be partners with businesses and clients throughout all of this because these are easily some of the most groundbreaking changes that the industry has seen in a while but they’re going to also be some of the more impactful so it’s important to stay in front of that I think.

John Tyreman:  Those are all really great examples. One that I hadn’t heard of before is server side tracking, can you explain that just a little bit?

Haley Nininger:  Yeah, so server side tracking kind of runs parallel to some of the other examples I mentioned here but server side tracking is a little bit of a combination between that first party tag data as well as the overarching idea being keeping all of the data right there on the server, kind of in the cloud, and the whole anonymization process is happening in the server. So you’re not really having anybody on the advertising side, you’re not really having anybody on the adp platform side really seeing the data. But through hashing and optimization within the cloud, all of that is kind of getting mashed up and tracked there. So essentially, I think of it with Microsoft and bing specifically, the process kind of looks like Bing is able to within the cloud, look at somebody who researches something and then deliver an ad to cater to that result without either party ever identifying the other. So being able to kind of track all of that within the server and rely so heavily on machine learning there, that’s going to be something we’ve never seen done before. So seeing the implications of that play out is going to be really impactful for us.

John Tyreman:  Gosh, that is so fascinating and I can tell, I can see why it’s gonna make things really hard. So for marketers who want to learn more and and want to follow you in this journey, where should they go to connect with you?,

Haley Nininger:  LinkedIn. LinkedIn would be awesome. I’m always open to new connections and I love networking with other people in the industry and out of the industry, so you can always find me with LinkedIn – Haley Nininger.  So I’m looking forward to connecting.

John Tyreman:  All right. Well, Haley, thank you so much for taking the time to hang out with me on this podcast, and to talk about ad platform changes. I know that a lot of marketers will find some value in that. 

Haley Nininger:  Awesome, thanks so much, John. 

John Tyreman:  If you found this podcast episode insightful, please subscribe, tell a friend and leave a rating and review. And to learn more, head on over to where we have a wealth of digital marketing insights on our blog and Resource Center. We’ll see you next time on The Digital Marketing Troop.