Episode 51 — When Cookies Crumble, Part 1: How Creator Marketing Can Help Brands Wean Off Third-Party Data

Ad Results Media
19 min readSep 30, 2022


Like it or not, Google promises its third-party trackers are going away… Eventually. And while the exact moment of the browser cookie’s demise is a bit up in the air, its impact on advertising is already undeniable. Will the impending Cookiepocalypse™ be the end of advertising as we know it? Not likely. Still, brands can and should start preparing now, while it’s still possible to see the cookie jar as half-full.

Today, we’re joined by Gretchen Smith, Vice President of Media at ARM, to talk about how creator marketing can make brands resilient to the dawning of this brave new cookieless world.

(0s): We actually use Scribd in our home

(3s): Do you really love your Sleep Number? And we do

(24s): Creator marketing, unlike more conventional advertising campaigns, creative marketing, unlocks new opportunities for advertisers to leverage the authentic, proven, and recognizable voice and talent of a content creator to spike brand recognition and engage customers more efficiently and effectively as the marketing industry rushes to adapt to ever-changing privacy standards and third-party data becomes a thing of the past. Create a marketing may be the silver bullet needed to future proof. Your brand strategy creators not only hold the key to their audience insights because they interact with them daily, but because they also have authenticated data on demographics, impressions and engagement metrics, I’m Lindsay Smith and I’m Nate Spell.

(1m 2s): And in this episode of On the Mic with Ad Results Media, we are joined by Ad Results Media’s Vice President of Media, Gretchen Smith, to discuss the creator economy and moving toward a future without third-party data. All right, Gretchen, thank you so much for joining us on, on the mic today. I wanted to start off a little bit talking about cookies and third-party data in general. Let’s talk about how this data has traditionally been used and how it’s changing overall.

(1m 29s): Well, what year would you like me to start Lindsay? Gosh, I think, I think the.com era was the very beginning of how we could start thinking about ways to categorize the screens. We all use into marketable abilities and opportunities, but what within the past, you know, five or six years with the rise of more and more browsers, you know, enhancing and enriching cookies, different things like device grabs and even the introduction and hyper usage of the Facebooks Instagrams of the world.

Gosh, there’s tons of different ways that the internet and technology is able to stitch things together and say, this is who you are. I think you’ll look like this. You might look like this, but we’re going to take a chance on it, right? Cookies realistically rely the best on an internet browser. That’s why they break some times on your mobile phone and your mobile apps, but they contain a lot of rich information about where you visited. They might guess your age, your income, based on what you’ve done. There’s a lot of different ways that they’re making educated guesses on who you are.

And in certain permissions, they will sell them to companies that will market to you later on.

(2m 36s): So that’s third party data, but what exactly is changing now with cookies going forward? I guess I know that there’s talks about compliance issues globally, or are cookies going away entirely are they’re becoming less important or how are we thinking about them looking forward?

(2m 52s): That’s a great question. There was just an announcement that Google pushback, the we’re calling the cookie apocalypse to 2024. So marketers everywhere. We’re rejoicing consumers, probably not so much, but the, the first kind of war on cookies happened actually with the release of GDPR on around 2018 or so, I don’t know the exact year off the top of my head, but that was essentially where Europe passed laws that said that consumers of the internet had the right to be forgotten. They had a right to say, I don’t like you having that data.

Please get rid of it, delete this cookie, a racist cookie, a lot of marketers and brands, you know, fought back and said, well, your cookies kind of get cleared every 30 days anyway, but we all know that’s not necessarily true. So ultimately what happens is you need to be able to have access to all your data and you have the freedom to say, Hey, I don’t want to be tracked. You need to forget me. You need to erase my data that applies to Europe only. It’s a little bit more of the wild west in the states, right? California introduced a similar law, which allows the residents of California to have more control over their privacy rights and the cookies.

But rest of America, you know, you probably get this all the time on your browser where it says, Hey, like welcome to this website. Here’s how we use cookies. You can accept all, or you can leave. It’s not really an opt-in or opt-out process quite like the rest of Europe. So there’s a lot of changes happening. And it’s difficult to say where legislation will go in the United States on how people have a right to their personal data and cookies. But we definitely have some of the more free flowing opportunities to collect user data and act on it for better or for worse.

(4m 27s): Right? And so obviously, you know, for advertisers that data is helping them target their messaging and think about how to optimize their spending. What about first party data? Like how are creators in particular using first party data? And what are the differences between, you know, the kind of data that you can get natively within YouTube or any of the other platforms as opposed to something like a cookie?

(4m 51s): Yeah. I love that we’re bringing it into the conversation about creators and first party, because there really should be no world where a creator or an influencer has access to third-party data and changes up their message on to you, right? That’s where we start getting really hairy into the ethics department, starts feeling a little bit like seedy and creepy. Whenever you’re looking at your page, you’re getting very personalized ads. A creator can get first party data from the different platforms that they’re posting on. So if a creator is posting a YouTube video, they can look at the YouTube analytics of the types of people that viewed and engage with their content.

And the reason they can do that is because if they’re logged in to Gmail or the Google account, part of the terms of service are that by using that service, they can use your data to enrich other types of Google products. Now there are ways to opt out of it, but I will say here’s one of my spicy takes Google. Doesn’t make it very easy, right? They’re in the business of making money. They have. And they also to their credit, they want to make, it adds a more relevant experience for you. That’s what they pitch it, Les. So at that point, the first party data that creators get use.

So within YouTube, or let’s say if Tik TOK starts to share back analytics and data with their creators as well, you know, they can see it within tech talk and they get smarter within tech talk, but there’s no world where these walled gardens or social creator platforms are saying, Hey, here’s a handful of cookies. You can go do whatever you want with them. Go find them elsewhere, you know, go sign them up for your newsletter right now. I think that the social platforms have done a decent job of preventing that from happening. But, you know, at least marketing wise, we’ll see how true that actually is.

(6m 28s): I think it’s interesting because you brought up the idea that so Google makes it difficult to, to prevent the tracking. You know, you have to go through a lot of hoops to stop that, but you’ve also brought up that, you know, as a consumer, it does lead to ads that are more tailored to you. And it’s interesting. Cause I think we tend to demonize sometimes as a consumer from a consumer point of view, obviously advertisers, we rely on data, but like consumers, like don’t track me, but then also we get ads that are served as that. I mean, I know that I’ve been serving on social media and on Google that I, I did end up going to make a purchase and I did find it more convenient.

So I just thought it was an important point that we, as a consumer rely on that tracking.

(7m 10s): I actually can speak to that. I got one this morning that got me. I have been on my fall girl. I’ve been all about the fall girl aesthetic. And this morning I think it was urban Outfitters. Got me with their new pumpkin cream perfume.

(7m 30s): Oh my God.

(7m 31s): Yes. I got their ad in my Instagram reels or my Instagram stories. And I was like, well, there it is.

(7m 39s): I wonder how Mehta has categorize you as like a fall Halloween aesthetic because I am getting no, pumpkin’s no Holloway anywhere on my feed and that’s fine. Like I’ll dress up like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader on October 31st and call it a day. That’s the most that I get into the Halloween fall is done at all. So that’s so funny. It’s like a time example. Okay.

(7m 59s): Yeah, they absolutely like as soon as August 1st hit, like I started with the fall aesthetic and they 100% dialed in on that.

(8m 7s): I wonder how much of that too, for marketers, even on social, but even if, you know, obviously creator marketing like we do, how much of that is seasonal luck and how much of that is that, oh, we know that Lindsay is going to buy this. Like right now we only got to serve two or two times before she goes to our website. And then that’s how we minimize our profits. So that’s where you can really get done a Warhol with a lot of these.

(8m 28s): So I’m, I’m kind of curious when creators are working with marketers, are they sharing that first party data with them? Or how is that relationship working?

(8m 39s): That’s a really great question. They cannot share the data in terms of the individual cookies, the IDs, the emails that would be very illegal and sketchy. They can share. 70% of my viewers are female and they like to consume this other type of content on YouTube. And they have an estimated income of X, Y, and Z. And the way that they do that is that Google for YouTube is stitching that information together on their greater platform. And they can see that directionally, but they can’t see that Gretchen and Lindsey and Nate watches video.

And so Gretchen makes up 33% of the audience. Aggression is female and makes this much money. Like it will never get down to that level because that’s where you start losing the trust about like, this is about aggregate information, sharing, getting smarter directionally versus individual consumer privacy. I don’t want somebody, I don’t know, especially a creator knowing how much money I make or exactly where I live. Nobody wants that, but it might be helpful if they are trying to market a new type of rug style. That’s very, and apparently the new interior design aesthetic is organic modern.

I’d never heard about this before. Creator started talking about it, but you’re supposed to use only like natural jute rugs and things like that. Like I, would’ve never bought a jute rug. And so it’d be very creepy. If somebody came to me to my door and said, Hey, got your information from this creators ad you engaged with, you want a coupon for a jute rug. That would be terrifying. But if I get it just in general as a part of an audience group, I know that I’m not personally individually being targeted. I know that I’m part of like a group of data that different advertisers are trying to reach and it’s just by luck.

And if I engage with it, I’ll get more of it. If I don’t engage with it, I will get less of it.

(10m 20s): So then how are agencies exactly interacting with, I think you’ve made it really clear that no agency or no, no advertisers looking at, you know, XYZ person’s exact data, but we are seeing a snapshot. At least the creator is seeing a snapshot. How do agencies use that first party data that aggregate understanding of, you know, a creator’s audience when it comes to their, their media spend or their messaging?

(10m 45s): Well, I think agencies can certainly try. And I think that they have tried, you know, there’s many ways around trying to get the exact user. I know within a couple ad servers, you can get something called log files that will tell you specifically, like this is a single piece of ID we’ve identified as a human and here’s everything that they did, but there’s no way to say that they’re Lindsey. And likewise, you can sometimes do that with things like IP addresses, but IP addresses are a little bit more vague, right? If I log on to my work laptop at my co-work downtown Austin, everything that I do on that is associated with that cohort.

And so, you know, it’s a lot harder to search me, but boy, they’re going to try and say, look at all these actions that came from this IP address and try to market specifically to that. So I just want to make sure that that is clear, like agencies will try and ultimately there are working laws in place. And also just trying to make, think of how, you know, the Googles and Facebooks of the world wants to not be liable for any privacy mishaps. Like they will put guard rails, make it difficult to use that data unless there’s heavy spend involved. Yeah.

(11m 45s): How are agencies starting to shift to relying more on first party data now that you know, we’re talking about creative marketing specifically

(11m 53s): Know, you have to think about the first party data is like, we know that anybody who follows a creator is opting into it. And they’re saying, I want to follow this person because they are marketing something. I like, they are a comedian and they make me laugh. They have a similar lifestyle to me. And so whenever you think about first party data, there’s nothing being passed back from a creator to an agency that is personally identifiable is saying, here’s what I said to the audience that follows me. It’s my first party audience. And I kind of know what they look like, but I don’t get any sort of cookies or data or newsletters or things like that out of that and whatever they do from their promo code and the case of podcasting, you know, if I just have a promo code for my show and my piece of data, anything that comes off of that, assuming there’s not a code leak, you know, came from my first party data.

And so it’s about making that connection with the creator directly and saying that I want to reach your audience. So with my product versus saying, I want to reach moms 18 plus that I’m going to purchase from an experience or from a different kind of BlueKai third-party source that we don’t even necessarily know how it sits together. We know every person viewing a creator, either listening to them on their podcasts, looking at their Instagram, their YouTube they’ve opted in to spend time like watching that person and their feed or listening to it on their podcast.

And that’s where the value is and where it starts to get into like, well, technically it’s first party.

(13m 16s): So I want to shift gears a little bit because depending on who you’re talking to or who you’re reading the economy may be heading into a recession. There’s a lot of conversation about that. So how can create or marketing help brands during this potential downturn?

(13m 33s): What I’ve told almost all my clients that I thought about either ramping up or bringing down their budgets, it’s regardless of how you’re going to respond to economic uncertainty, you’re going to need a voice at some point. You know what I mean? You either going to need a voice to talk about what you’re changing with your company, how are you going to do it? And things like that. And if you’re not working with creators during these tough times, you only have access to your own email lists and sure you can buy a billboard on sunset Boulevard. There’s many other ways that you can do traditional marketing to reach people at scale. But if you’re trying to get a message out quickly and authentically, you know, there’s only so much that talking to your own customers are going to do, like working with a creator is going to be able to find like-minded people who maybe consider your brand, but aren’t opted into it.

Think about you in a different way. So let’s take the example of like a new apple iPhone or something. There’s, you know, when recessions happen, consumers might not be as likely to consider doing those frivolous purchases because they say, well, I have an iPhone 12 already. It works fine. And I’d love to have the new shiny object, but I got to save some cash here and there, apple emailing, everybody talking about the iPhone 13, that’s old news. They’ve been doing that since they created the iPhone to upgrade your iPhone, but having a creator and influencer talk about how using their iPhone 13, or I think they’re on 14 now.

I don’t even know how using their iPhone, the newest model actually helps them change up their at-home business game or that, you know, they’re having a newborn child. And instead of investing in a expensive camera, the camera on the newest iPhone actually had the most clear cut stuff. And it helped actually like retouch some blemishes or something like that on their own photos that they were insecure about. So by having creators represent your brands, even through tough times, especially where the sales might not happen, it creates relevancy and consumers’ brains that might not be there otherwise.

And so that’s why I really encourage all of the brands out there to think about creator marketing. You don’t have to give carte blanche to the creative, say everything that you want, but you will need a platform for your voice in a way that is not traditional. And it has unexpected

(15m 30s): Speaking of relevancy, you know, so gen Z is obviously like kind of taking the lead on the stage of, of creating them. And I think a lot of marketers are trying to think about how can they be more relevant to that audience? Do you have any thoughts on trends or just advice for advertisers, things that they need to know about when approaching gen Z?

(15m 53s): Yeah. I’ll start with creators in general. I think that millennials and gen X are quick to criticize brand partnerships with creators. They think, oh, you know, like this creator endorsing this protein powder or something like they’re a sellout or that, well, they’re obviously getting paid to it and I don’t want to see it. They very much take the attitude of the older generations of, you know, I grew up in what was once a free internet. And my ad was a small banner in the corner that I could use an ad blocker to get out of. Now it’s disrupting my day. I don’t want to see paid promotions for stuff. Gen Z is different. They understand this is part of the job.

They understand that creators are going to work with brands as a revenue and income source. They don’t have to work a nine to five. They understand that that money that they’re getting from brand partnerships is going towards better gear. If they’re a travel blogger, it’s funding their next trip, that to do like mission or volunteer work and things like that, it’s going directly into it. So gen Z is much more open to brand partnerships then millennials and gen X ever was. So don’t be afraid to market, to gen Z and creators. In fact, I was going to far to say, if your target is gen Z and you’re targeting them with 300 by two 50 banners, what are you doing?

You need to be gen Z and it doesn’t have to be on tech talk if you’re not ready to dabble in that yet, but it needs to be through the platforms that they’re communicating with their peers on. So definitely thinking of that gen Z expects brands to have a digital presence. They do. They just expect it. If they don’t, how are they going to hear about it? They spend more time on screens than any generation before they grew up with the internet. Since they were two years world, they were the original iPad kids. And, you know, ultimately there is no world where they engage with a brand that doesn’t exist in some form, not only on a digital screen, but also with the creators that are continually producing content about it.

(17m 35s): So when we talk about creators in a cookie list age, you know, we’re, we’re mostly interested in talking about the quantitative gaps. So what are some of the more qualitative benefits and how can brands

(17m 49s): Think about creator

(17m 50s): Marketing more holistically?

(17m 52s): Gosh, that depends on their brand goals. You know, like when you’re talking about, let’s start with the quantitative gaps, what do you lose with cookies going away? Well, you lose the ability to stitch unknown interactions to individual insights, right? Suddenly your impressions that you bought for a third-party audience are just impressions. They’re not, here’s what they did later on. You know, we switched that 30 days later, they had this conversion that’s because of this cookie, you lose all of that. And so with creators, it’s in a way almost going back to basics. I remember hearing, you know, in 20 17, 20 18, that cookies were eventually going to deprecate.

And the prediction then was that we were going to go back to the age, old marketing of homepage takeovers on the New York times as our staple versus trying to like, oh, do I know I’m happy? Look, they’re relevant. They’re relevant in some cases still, but I’m very happy to have made the jump to full time creator marketing. But yeah, realistically trusting creators for your voice is kind of in a way, like going to that back to basics, like it’s knowing that they are going to give a message that makes sense with the website that they represent and the job of the New York times, but also with their message going out to all their consumers and creators who are good at what they do.

Aren’t going to take a message that doesn’t make any sense for them, you know? So in a way, you know, it’s more authentic than just, oh, this company paid to be on the front page of the New York times. Cool check. I’m moving on.

(19m 13s): Well, it sounds like we’re in a good position at ad results to whether any sort of cookie pocalypse. I like that term a lot.

(19m 23s): Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s nice. Definitely. And it was, it was a big selling point for me to jump into the creative world, just knowing that the only way that podcasting even stitches data together as IP addresses and a lot of clients raise their eyebrows. I’m not gonna lie. You know, we have a lot of clients that ad results who are very interested in getting heavy into the data and getting more rich consumer insights. And I would say, what are the three of them raise her eyebrows? And they’re like, you’re using an IP address to stitch together an identity. And we say, well, how else would you like to do it? You know, because cookies are going to go away.

And a podcast uses an RSS feed, the work, you can’t put a cookie tax file on the front of Northwest speed. It doesn’t work. And then, you know, typically they start off, they think about code and it overwhelms them. They move on. But you know, I think that using, using the IP as the identifier can certainly be more sophisticated, but any way it makes podcasting resilient through times like this, that, you know, you’re getting down to a household and making still the best educated guests that you can and combining it with other signals to get campaign learnings.

(20m 21s): Yeah. And I can see how like, understanding a household is also, it might not be quite as granular as a cookie can be. Like, you were talking about mapping, it’s specific to a specific action, but understanding the households you’re reaching, that’s really powerful too.

(20m 34s): Yeah. It’s powerful. And to say, to hear people think that will reaching a household isn’t relevant to me, this is what marketers dreamed of in the nineties, you know, to get down to the household level of what was happening. Wow. And of course we got really sophisticated and really creepy with data privacy. And now you’re talking about, you know, all the laws and criticisms that come out because of it. So again, I think it’s a good thing. I don’t think cookies are criminalized, but they certainly have caused a lot of concerns with consumer privacy. It’s also kind of funny. If you go to websites, you can look up what cookies guests about you.

And, you know, I think that I’ve done this once a year through all my life changes over the past, like 10 or 11 years. Like when I was dirt poor in New York city, sharing a roommate with three theater kids or an apartment through theater kids and said that I was like a homeowner and I was making six figures. And I was like, I mean, I wish how do I, like Neff asked my cookies to be my real life? I don’t know. But even I’m going to look after this. It probably says that I’m still in New York city, like at the grind. So those were

(21m 35s): The vibes you were putting out though.

(21m 36s): I, you know what, maybe there’s something there with the full mode, you know, it’s just saying like, we’re going to make our cookies look like the way you want to live.

(21m 43s): Yeah. This is like a whole new version of the fortune cookie. I like Gretchen, thanks so much for joining us on the podcast today and giving us your insights on creative marketing and how, you know, it’s really resilient in the face of the upcoming cookie apocalypse.

(21m 59s): I know it’s Google might push it back another couple years. Who knows? We can predict the future. And if we could, we’d be a lot more rich than we are right now. So

(22m 10s): We hope you enjoyed the episode. If you did do us a favor and share it on your social feed of choice.

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(22m 28s): While you’re at it, please leave us a review. We’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, or ideas for future episodes. So feel free to email us directly at onthemic@adresultsmedia.com

(22m 38s): On the Mic is hosted by Lindsay Smith and Nate Spell, edited by Jeffrey Stallings and produced by Ad Results Media. For more information about Ad Results Media go to adresultsmedia.com or follow us on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

(22m 52s): We’re proud to be a part of the Adweek podcast network Acast Creator Network. Find more podcasts like this one at ad week.com/podcasts.



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