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  • Writer's pictureTPA Digital

User identity : four questions a CMO should be asking

by Wayne Blodwell

CMO, CEOs & CFOs who are dialed in to their marketing investments are well aware of the mantra ‘right user, right time, right message’. However, if they have picked up some trade press of late they probably have plenty of questions for their marketing teams on the feasibility of executing upon this given the reduction of third party tracking and increased regulation.

So how does the marketing team go about answering some of those challenging questions when there are no answers (yet)?

Question 1 – how are we going to measure the success of media investment in future?

*The* question.  Opinions range from blind faith to differential privacy. Both are equally as wrong as they are right.

Of all the elements of marketing (ecomm, PR, CRM, media, promotions, etc.) measurement has the highest number of variables that need to be customised to the brand to make any sense. Sweeping statements like ‘a return to context’ or ‘increase investment in TV’ are unhelpful at best, and stupid at worst.

Brands need to build measurement frameworks bottom up; start with the business objectives and the available data, and then figure where that can connect to marketing – a watch out here is that what may be seen as direct causation because of 1:1 data matches, is almost always incorrect. The mapping of impacting variables across multiple datasets is critical. It’ll be a world full of imperfect information (desperately trying not to go down the game theory route, if you search ‘imperfect information’ you’ll see…) but the businesses that win are the ones that understand the imperfections/grey areas and do their best to bring as much as possible together (from a variety of sources).

Question 2 – what about targeting the right audience with the right message?

It’s still doable, it just requires a tailored approach and a different way of thinking about scale.

Very practically – retargeting/audience targeting across the majority of browsers works, but with time restraints. This will evolve. Working with top publishers who have access to opted in audiences will help. Ideally this is enabled through programmatic technologies.

Walled gardens will add increasing value (anyone who knows me, knows how painful it is to say that) but brands need to lean in to some of the alternative options out there – ID5, ReArc, Infosum, LiveRamp etc. These options will only gain scale through advertiser and publisher sign up – give them a go!

Question 3 – how much of this do we need to own versus our media agency?

This is dependent on a brand’s threshold for compliance liability. I would suggest that passing the liability downstream via Data Protection Agreements (DPAs) isn’t going to fly long term (as mentioned by the ICO in their report on RTB). It is brand user data that is most at risk of PR disaster and fines, not agency tools which facilitate that. Marketers shouldn’t be ‘waiting for the legal team to come back with a response’, they need to understand how/where data flows and be proactively pushing for answers.

Marketers should own their approach to marketing identity.

Question 4 – how much do we have to rely on Google going forward?

Insert the shrug emoji. Honestly, I don’t know. Basically it isn’t going to be the risky bet, but is going to be the restrictive one because of how Google approach privacy (sometimes for their own gain).


The reality is that identity is difficult for marketers. My previous boss/mentor @Matt Adams once commented “you need a magazine full of silver bullets” and he was right. There isn’t going to one single saving grace from either an approach or a technology, it’ll require the orchestration of multiple.

Developing a strategy towards identity is crucial. Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail. And marketers need to prepare asap.

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