By: Tod Loofbourrow

Despite another delay in Chrome’s cookie phase-out, the search for alternative methods for personalization, attribution and gathering insights that uphold consumer privacy is in full swing. Amid this transition, zero-party data has emerged as a powerful alternative for brands to understand, target and embrace customers. Zero-party data, gathered directly from consumers with their full consent, has come to the forefront for a few reasons.

• Privacy: Zero-party data is willingly provided by consumers to brands, addressing privacy concerns, unlike third-party data obtained through observation and tracking.

• Brand Trust: Zero-party data gathered through consumer interaction fosters trust between advertisers and consumers through transparency, active participation and value exchange.

• Timely Consumer Insights: Directly asking consumers about their wants, needs and preferences presents an opportunity to obtain fresh and specific insights that are otherwise challenging to infer.

The Power Of Participation: How Zero-Party Ads Create A Win-Win Situation

While zero-party data isn’t a new concept—think of quizzes, surveys and preference centers on websites and apps—its potential in advertisements remains significantly underutilized. The majority of digital ads result in one-way communication, resulting in unfavorable experiences for consumers.

But ads can be far more than talking at potential customers—they can be a medium for talking with potential customers. You might call these “zero-party ads.” By leveraging ads as a conduit for gathering zero-party data, advertisers invite the consumer to participate in the experience, giving them an opportunity to be heard.

Think about how consumer reviews transformed the online shopping experience, making it useful, convenient and more enjoyable for consumers. Think how ratings and feedback in ride-sharing apps and rental properties built trust with consumers and enabled new forms of commerce and massive businesses.

Those kinds of two-way conversations paved the way for personalization, an improved user experience and a trove of insights to inform marketing campaigns in the future. Your ads can (and should) provide you with similar benefits.

Beyond Brand Awareness: How A Major Bank Used Zero-Party Ads To Build Brand Trust

One of our customers—a large national bank—wanted to expand its presence in key U.S. markets. The bank understood brand trust links closely to customer growth, so they needed to understand how potential new customers perceived their brand. They began trying to understand what messages built trust with various clusters of potential new customers.

They embedded simple surveys within their video ads to gauge brand trust across different markets. Through swift analysis and AI-based analytics, the advertiser identified the most impactful ad creatives, optimized campaigns and gained insights into consumer preferences by market and audience segment. The brand’s ability to adjust campaign strategy based on timely insights ultimately led to improved brand trust, consideration and engagement—and, therefore, to new customers and growth.

The Post-Cookie Era: Why AI And Zero-Party Ads Are The New Power Couple

Scale, or the lack thereof, is one of the problems created by cookie depreciation. Without masses of data provided by third-party cookie pools, brands are wondering what to do. Do they have to retreat all the way back to contextual advertising? The answer is no. And the reason is the emergence of a second big megatrend—one far bigger in its impact on marketing than even cookie deprecation. This is the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI).

The core power of AI comes from the quality and accuracy of the data on which it bases its models. And no data is more powerful than data willingly shared by an engaged consumer.

AI’s real strength lies in the data it works with, and nothing beats tapping into what consumers are thinking and feeling. Big brands are constantly on the hunt for insights into how they’re perceived. They might already be gathering some of that information from their loyal customers through their website, app or social media. Or maybe they’re doing old-school focus groups. But that doesn’t always scale up well.

Now, here’s where zero-party ads come in. Big brands are pumping millions into ad impressions every month. Each of those impressions is an opportunity to hear directly from consumers. It’s like a treasure trove of information waiting to be tapped.

Getting Started With Zero-Party Ads

Beyond A/B testing and brand lift measurement, here are other examples of businesses using zero-party ads to enhance their ad campaigns.

• Personalizing Ad Experiences: A primary care medical group can boost ad engagement by asking people to select which service features, like same-day appointments or online scheduling, they value most within a display ad. This personalization can lead to more relevant information being shown based on user choice.

• Curating Target Audiences: By incorporating branded surveys and quizzes into their ad campaign, a footwear brand can determine brand sentiment and consumer preferences for specific product lines. This method—in combination with AI—may help identify millions of inferred audiences in just months, enabling them to focus on interested customers while excluding others, enhancing ad relevance and reducing wasted spend.

• Uncovering Consumer Insights: Advertisers are also using a single follow-up question in ads to understand why people feel a certain way about a brand or product. Follow-ups help brands understand how consumers feel about them. For example, imagine a voice assistant brand noticing low brand consideration due to privacy concerns. The company then addresses this issue in a new ad campaign, transforming negative feedback into a positive message by directly addressing and alleviating consumer concerns about privacy.

By inviting consumers to interact directly with ad content, zero-party ads enhance engagement and provide valuable insights, helping tailor future marketing efforts more precisely.

Embracing Zero-Party Ads: A Strategic Imperative

As we navigate the post-cookie era, embracing zero-party ads is a strategic imperative for marketers. Leveraging the power of zero-party data and AI, brands can forge meaningful connections with consumers while respecting their privacy. As we look to the future of digital advertising, it’s time to seize this opportunity to innovate, engage and elevate the consumer experience.