Marketing Leaders at Miami’s Epic POSSIBLE Conference Debate the Future of Digital Advertising

The post-cookie world took center stage at the POSSIBLE conference April 15-17th at Miami’s iconic Fontainebleau Hotel. With over 3,500 attendees – CMOs, agency leaders, and solution providers – the POSSIBLE conference is taking its place as an essential part of the adtech calendar.

One question dominated the conversation at POSSIBLE:

How will digital advertising work after full third party cookie deprecation in Google’s dominant Chrome browser kicks in just eight short months from now?

Veteran Adtech executive Jonah Goodhart set the stage when he defined the stakes – digital advertising is now a seven hundred billion dollar industry, 70% of all advertising spend. Yet by the end of 2024, its foundations will completely change, as the privacy-busting practice of pooling third party cookie data goes away due to regulatory pressure.

At POSSIBLE, advertisers, technology vendors and publishers were hotly debating solutions to deepen consumer relationships while also adapting to radically new privacy practices. Despite privacy changes which upend the traditional model, advertisers were enthusiastic that they are finding solutions to achieve both deep relationships with consumers and robust consumer privacy.

At the heart of the POSSIBLE conversation was zero-party data – a term coined by Forrester Research – data gathered from consumers with full consent, and employed to find and understand new customers, deliver insights, and build audiences for advertising. Zero party data – often gathered from zero party ads – is emerging as a key strategy for brands and agencies to build relationships with consumers through advertising, and to learn about them at the same time.

Several themes stood out at POSSIBLE:

Privacy changes are rewiring advertisers’s options

Big changes are in motion for digital advertising this year, as 100% of third party cookies phase out from the Chrome browser in Q4, leading to major changes in how advertisers and their agencies achieve their marketing goals.

An informal survey of 300 attendees revealed that half of session attendees are already working with their technology partners on cookie deprecation solutions. And somewhat frighteningly, that means that half are not yet preparing for the massive changes coming with the death of third party cookies.

Gary Vaynerchuk of VaynerMedia reminded attendees to move fast, bring media and creative closer together in this new world, and remember that “business results are the currency.”

Google described how their modular Privacy Sandbox approach to a post cookie world is allowing advertising technology (adtech) innovators to build their own robust data and targeting functionality. From Google Privacy Partnerships’ Managing Director: “The API is designed as building blocks, and all of the code is open source to assure transparency.”

In general, consensus seemed to be that it was time for advertisers to confront and prepare for the massive changes coming to digital advertising in a couple hundred days.

As Vineet Mehra, the CMO of Chime said – referencing his company’s speed of change and adaptability as a business strategy: 

“The key to being a trailblazer is to never be comfortable with the status quo.”

Zero-party data is emerging as the new strategy of choice

Advice on adapting to the death of third party cookies:

ViralGains showcased their zero party ads solution, allowing advertisers to collect and scale opt-in zero party data right within their ads. From Tod Loofbourrow, CEO of ViralGains: 

“Brands crave authentic relationships with consumers, and zero party data is the new way of building such relationships. The largest brands are quickly moving from dependence on third-party cookie data to building their own direct relationships with consumers using zero party ads.”

Michael Lamb, CCO of RTB House advised: 

“Commit to a more private way of doing advertising and to take back control of your data.”

For a top holding company executive: 

“We’ve seen [both] contextual and AI-based solutions being applied with great effect.”

From a senior Google executive: 

“Think about being ready rather than being done. Recognize that it’s going to be a journey.”

The power of brand and the power of AI in the new digital marketing

Greg Stuart, CEO of MMA Global (the organizer of the POSSIBLE conference), unveiled new and thought-provoking results in several areas of MMA research – on the impact of brand advertising, and on the staggering impact of AI technology on ad performance. The clear conclusion – Brand advertising is driving sales performance, and the separation of the two is out of step with the reality of the power of brand.

On the impact of brand advertising on performance

A new MMA study reached three surprising conclusions, cutting across the often siloed domains of brand advertising and performance advertising:

  1. At least 70% of the sales lift from advertising came in the 7 months after the campaign ended – showcasing the staying power of brand advertising.
  2. Advertising to your own customers is a big driver of sales
  3. The value of building brand favorable non-customers [ongoing and targeted brand lift] is significant but time shifted

The powerful data backing these conclusions – in the study, high brand favorability drove a 1.9X sales increase per household at Campbell’s, a 3X improvement at Kroger eCommerce, and a 6X improvement at Ally Financial. As Stuart put it succinctly: “Brand IS performance.” Kroger VP and Head of Marketing Tom Duncan added: “We saw a measurable shift in our business through brand advertising.”

On the impact of AI on campaign performance:

Stuart further revealed that across six large advertisers benchmarked in a just released MMA AI study, the average campaign improvement brought about by use of AI was 149%. With improvements ranging from 68% to 259% across the six advertisers studied, AI is clearly establishing its place in the advertisers’ arsenal.

The POSSIBLE conference is emerging as the advertising industry’s leading event in North America:

The conference brought together some 3,500 attendees from all parts of the advertising ecosystem, including advertisers, publishers, and technology vendors – for a robust discussion of the future of advertising. Attendees included Fortune 2000 CMOs, CEOs, and the largest and most innovative advertising agencies. 

Last year Linda Yaccarino interviewed Elon Musk from the stage, while Musk’s son X ran around in the wings backstage, and a day later, Twitter made the surprise announcement that Yaccarino was taking the reins as CEO. From 2023’s onstage CEO job interview for one of the OG social media companies, to 2024’s solution rich conference addressing the disappearance of third party cookies, the POSSIBLE conference continues to set the standard for advertising technology conferences. With this second installment of the POSSIBLE conference, the event solidifies its position as an indispensable fixture in the advertising industry calendar, standing shoulder to shoulder with Cannes.

About Tod Loofbourrow

Tod Loofbourrow is the Chairman and CEO of ViralGains, a marketing platform that enables brands and agencies to discover, understand and nurture customers by leveraging the power of zero-party data in ads through creative interactivity and audience-building AI solutions. Tod is a serial entrepreneur, having served as President of iRobot, where he helped grow market capitalization to $1B, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Authoria (now Peoplefluent), and CEO of artificial intelligence consulting firm Foundation Technologies, Inc. Since 2011, Tod has served as Entrepreneur in Residence at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, where he also judges the data science competition. He is the author or editor of seven books — including a bestseller on computer science and robotics written at the age of 16, and an anthology book series on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Tod was educated at Harvard and Oxford Universities, and has lectured at Stanford, MIT Sloan School, Harvard Business School, Babson College, and others.

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