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Internet Marketers are Losing Signals They’ve Always Had.

Since the dawn of internet advertising, advertisers have become accustomed to better and better targeting. But in the last few years, that’s totally changed. The combination of new privacy legislation and Apple’s deprecation of user identifiers has obliterated advertiser access to conversion and targeting signals. This significant signal loss has several implications for the advertising industry.

That signal loss has left advertisers scrambling to improve marketing spend and has created huge casualties in the space. Facebook’s stock is down tremendously year over year, as is SNAP’s. Businesses that depend on using conversion signals to target have suffered. Look at e-commerce companies. Shopify, an e-commerce platform, is also down significantly as its merchant partners have struggled to navigate this new world.

There is one place more marketers need to look, not because it is just a part of a good marketing strategy, but also because of the on-platform data that it produces. Marketers really need to employ creative production strategically.

Creative Produces On-Platform Signals

First, because of the lack of conversion data and reduced targeting ability that comes from losing persistent identifiers, advertisers need to find ways to increase signal strength to the advertising platforms they’re using. The use of better creatives can be an effective solution. A creative that “stops the scroll” sends a signal to the platform that the user is interested, even if the advertiser doesn’t have an ID associated with the user. The key here is that the engagement happens on the platform, so it’s a measurable signal. 

Video creatives are an even more powerful tool, because not only do you get a scroll-stopping signal, you also are able to capture deeper user interest. There’s a big difference in signal strength from a user who spends 2 seconds watching a video and one who spends 15 seconds. Again, this is on platform behavior that can be recorded and understood, even in the absence of a unique device identifier (UDID) and cookies. 

In the past, advertisers were able to design creatives for specific segments and target them accordingly. However, with the loss of user identifiers, targeting segments are now largely unknown in advance. Advertisers can use creatives to find their audience by creating niche targeted ads, essentially reversing the process.

More Creative = Better Signals

The second implication is derivative of the first. If creative is more important as a signal, then it’s more important to create and test more ads. Advertisers must find ways to make more ads, built around more niches and targeting segments, and run them more “wide open” to get the signal-based algorithms to find their customers for them. This means advertisers will make a lot more ads that don’t work—so they can find the ones that do

But Testing Randomly is Expensive

This brings us to the third implication. Advertisers will waste a lot of money if they don’t find ways to gain insights about their customer segments in advance. Privacy legislation and Apple’s deprecation of user IDs moved advertisers further away from the target. In response, advertisers need to find ways to move themselves closer again by better understanding the motivations of their customers before they start advertising

AI Can Help With Insights

To address this problem—and to understand consumer intent in a privacy-safe way—we built IntentKey®. This AI enables us to derive consumer insights anonymously from content engagement. Our web crawler indexes and understands consumer intent across billions of web pages, and our consumer engagement models map this intent to what drives customers. Better knowledge means better creatives.

A Real-Life Example

Here’s how that works in real life. We worked with a well-known headphone manufacturer to understand the intent driving new customers for a headphone meant to be worn during sleep. We identified a couple of interesting insights they were totally unaware of. First, we detected much higher interest from consumers in high latitudes. But this interest was seasonal—people who lived in Northern areas like Alaska needed more help to sleep during the long daylight hours of Summer.

We also identified that people who own pugs and other flat-faced dogs significantly over-indexed on interest in the sleeping headphones. Our AI didn’t know that flat-faced dogs are cute but noisy sleepers; it just identified a strong overlap between the intent signals we saw with consumer intent on the advertiser’s site.

These insights allowed our advertiser to develop niche-specific creatives. If you make an ad with a person, a pug, and someone peacefully sleeping, platform algorithms will optimize its delivery to people for whom that particular problem resonates. 

This is what advertisers are demanding.

Putting it All Together

Online advertising is changing rapidly. The identity tools we’ve relied on for the past decade are no longer available, and advertisers need to adapt. By focusing on creative, advertisers can increase signal strength to advertising platforms and find their target audience—even in the absence of traditional, persistent identifiers. But it is essential that advertisers increase their customer knowledge to do this. With this knowledge, and by creating and testing more segment-derived ads, advertisers can use creatives to discover customers that would otherwise be lost. With the right approach, advertisers can thrive in the new online advertising landscape, where the creative is the new targeting.

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