AI remains the pivotal topic of conversation across the world of business—from Wall Street, to board rooms, to sales pitches, to paid media.

In the advertising world, AI has already been at work for over a decade, powering programmatic advertising and optimizing media buying across the open internet. Today, new developments from the realm of generative AI (GenAI) are set to revolutionize the landscape even further.

As agencies and CMOs navigate these new opportunities, their leaders must balance two directives: First, embracing AI tools to increase efficiencies, grow revenue, and stay at the cutting edge of innovation. And second, protecting their businesses from the threats that come along with these tools. It’s a fine line to tread, but leading organizations are finding ways to approach these new technologies so that they benefit their businesses and bottom lines while minimizing liabilities.

To do this, advertisers must thoroughly understand the risks posed by AI. The most significant ones fall into three main categories: brand safety concerns tied to GenAI-created misinformation, considerations around how AI-generated advertising will land with a consumer base that’s largely wary of AI, and potential legal risks to agencies and brands related to data privacy and deceptive advertising practices.

Industry leaders must grow increasingly knowledgeable on these topics and develop best practices, processes, and skillsets across their teams to ensure any forays into new AI-driven advertising tools are safeguarded against risk.

AI-Driven Advertising and Brand Safety

AI offers many promising benefits for advertisers, from cost efficiency to speed to ease of launch. However, those advantages also come with some significant brand safety concerns. It’s important for advertisers to understand these threats, implement safeguards around their use of AI, and stay up to date on this quickly developing landscape in order to make the most of these tools and solutions without opening themselves up to consumer backlash and wasted spend.

The Promise—and Risks—of Generative AI

Generative AI is one of the biggest drivers of brand safety concerns, with 99.5% of industry professionals believing that GenAI poses a brand safety and misinformation risk to marketers and advertisers. GenAI technology is not perfect, and these tools have regularly demonstrated a tendency to produce content that’s, at one end of the spectrum, low-quality and likely ineffective for advertising, and, on the other end of the spectrum, inaccurate or offensive.

Two particular areas of concern include generative AI’s tendency to make up false information (also known as “hallucination” in the AI world) and indications of biases in AI-generated content (due to large language models relying on human inputs and human-generated content, which often contain biases).

These concerns were on full display earlier this year when Google had to suspend the image-generating capabilities of its Gemini chatbot, which is integrated into Google’s advertising tools, after it produced historically inaccurate images—specifically, Gemini created images of “multi-ethnic Nazis and non-white U.S. Founding Fathers”. The controversy demonstrates how developers are still learning how to program these technologies to effectively avoid bias: Gemini was programmed to avoid racial and ethnic bias, which, ironically, backfired when the images in question ended up being inaccurate.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that advertisers should forego the efficiencies offered by GenAI. However, it’s critical that teams understand the risks and put proper safeguards in place to minimize their likelihood.

“If teams are thoughtful in reviewing the outputs, then using AI to repurpose existing creative or develop elements of media assets should be fine,” says Molly Marshall, Client Strategy and Insights Partner at Basis Technologies. “But AI can’t currently replicate the creative process in terms of identifying a strong insight and developing creative that meaningfully relates to a target consumer, so AI-generated creative should complement and iterate upon an existing strategy, not wholly develop it.”

Chatbots and Customer Service

Generative AI has also prompted some additional headaches for brands that have started using AI-powered chatbots to streamline and personalize customer service on their websites. The technology promises to transform the customer service industry; however, upon testing chatbots offered by TurboTax and H&R Block, reports found that the chatbots offered inaccurate information “at least half of the time.”

Chatbots offer brands a big opportunity to streamline communication with customers, especially as brick-and-mortar stores close and more customer service is going virtual,” says Marshall. “But the potential damage from chatbots that share inaccurate information may outweigh those benefits for some brands.”

The New AI-Generated Web

Advertisers will also need to prepare for the ways generative AI is infiltrating content across the internet. One report estimates that by 2026, a whopping 90% of online content will be generated by AI.

Generative AI is already making it easier for bad actors to create MFA sites filled with low-quality content, misinformation-filled pages strategically developed around key search terms, and other content that could pose significant risks to brands that run ads alongside it. As a result, advertisers will need to be more deliberate around their ad spend and put new guardrails in place to avoid waste.

Programmatic advertisers, in particular, will need to seek out solutions that help steer their dollars away from MFA sites and other brand unsafe environments. Brands are already spending a reported 15% of their programmatic budgets on made-for-advertising websites (MFAs). Advertisers will need to “react in real-time to block misleading sites and keywords,” says Marshall, and should embrace technological solutions like MFA block lists to help minimize the risk. Agencies and brands may also eventually need to develop teams who work specifically to deal with fake content like misinformation and disinformation, in order to protect their spend: Gartner predicts that by 2027, 80% of marketers will have developed “content authenticity teams” to serve this purpose.

Consumer Resistance to AI in Advertising

Advertisers will also need to balance their own enthusiasm around AI with a consumer base that isn’t quite so excited. While 77% of advertisers have a positive view of AI, the majority of consumers don’t trust the technology: A 2024 report from the Edelman Trust Institute found that US consumer trust in artificial intelligence has fallen by 15% in the last five years, from 50% to 35%. On a global scale, respondents were nearly two times more likely to say that innovations like AI are “poorly managed” by businesses, NGOs, and governments than they were to say that those innovations were well managed—a sentiment shared across income, generation, and age.

These opinions don’t necessarily mean that advertisers should stop embracing those AI-led tools that work for them—especially considering that AI has effectively driven behind-the-scenes advertising features such as machine learning, algorithmic optimization, bid multipliers, and group budget optimization for some time now.

What it does mean is that leaders need to be cognizant of consumer sentiment toward AI, and to act accordingly. This could include informing consumers about how AI is used in a client or stakeholder’s marketing efforts, via a social media post or a dedicated page on their website. Brands may also opt to disclose when an ad or content is generated by AI. While only about half of ads generated by AI are currently identified as such, adding disclosures can lead to a 47% increase in the appeal of those ads, a 73% increase in the trustworthiness of those ads, and a 96% jump in trust for the brands behind them.

Data privacy is also top of mind for consumers, with 68% of global consumers feeling either somewhat or very concerned about their digital privacy, and 57% agreeing that artificial intelligence is a significant threat to their privacy. Organizations can gain consumers’ trust by offering transparency around how they safeguard their customers’ data, and by prioritizing partnerships with privacy-focused organizations or gaining voluntary certifications like SOC 2 compliance that indicate a commitment to data security and ethical data practices.

Leaders who prioritize this type of transparency can develop stronger, more trust-based relationships with their consumer base—which may provide a key competitive edge in a competitive environment.

Legal Concerns Around AI in Advertising

Finally, there are a variety of legal concerns advertising leaders must account for as they adopt new AI tools. Artificial intelligence has advanced more quickly than legislators can keep up with it, but there are a variety of regulations that have been introduced in the US and beyond that aim to mitigate the threats posed by AI. At the same time, advertisers must ensure compliance with existing legislation to avoid hefty fines and other legal consequences.

Data Privacy

As advertisers grapple with the deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome and wider issues surrounding signal loss, AI has emerged as a powerful tool for enabling privacy-friendly personalized marketing.

AI can enable lookalike and predictive audiences based on first-party data, and generate a variety of data-based insights to help advertisers better understand their audience and their consumers’ path to purchase. Advertisers are already starting to embrace these tools as a way of making up for the loss of cookies and other factors impacting signal loss.

At the same time, AI technologies can pose some data privacy-related risks. Many AI-powered advertising solutions use personal data to fuel their machine learning algorithms, and depending on the tool itself, there’s some ambiguity around where exactly all that data comes from, where it’s stored, and who can access it. What’s more, some artificial intelligence tools leverage the data they collect to deduce sensitive personal data such as location, health information, and political or religious views.

To ensure the ethical use of consumer data and to protect their businesses from legal consequences, advertising organizations must thoroughly vet any data-focused vendors or tools to ensure their data gathering, processing, analyzing, and storage systems comply with digital advertising regulations—and, of course, ensure their own data systems comply as well. Leaders must also stay on top of new AI- and data privacy-related regulations as they take hold, as this is an area that will likely see a lot of regulatory activity in coming years.

Deceptive Advertising

Another area of legal concern for advertisers relates to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is responsible for safeguarding US consumers from unfair or deceptive advertising practices. Last year, Chairwoman Lina Kahn wrote that the commission is paying special attention to AI’s potential to advance unfair and deceptive advertising practices, stating that “Although these tools are novel, they are not exempt from existing rules, and the F.T.C. will vigorously enforce the laws we are charged with administering, even in this new market.” This sentiment goes along with the FTC’s prior commitment to protecting US consumers from dark patterns, or design techniques that can manipulate consumers into purchasing an item or service or providing personal data (and which can be created and enhanced via AI). On the state level, the Colorado Privacy Act and the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) have also outlined regulations around dark patterns in advertising.

Ownership and Copyright

Lastly, advertisers need to pay close attention to any ownership- and copyright-related legal concerns around AI-generated content.

While AI-created content currently cannot be copyrighted, the US Copyright Office has initiated an agency-wide investigation to “delve into a wide range of (copyright-related) issues” created by the popularization of GenAI tools. Leaders will need to stay on top of any developments in this area to ensure compliance as more legislators and regulators refine rules around the ownership of AI-generated works.

Overall, advertising leaders must make it a priority to understand how current regulations apply to AI, and to stay on top of new regulations as they take hold. Enlisting a solid legal counsel or team will be key to navigating the complexity of this arena.

Wrapping Up: How Advertisers Can Harness AI

By investing the time in advancing their teams’ AI-adjacent knowledge and skillsets now, leaders will set their organizations up for success as the technology becomes increasingly prevalent throughout digital advertising. The sooner advertisers learn how to implement and take advantage of these tools in a discerning and ethical way, the greater their competitive edge will be over those who procrastinate.

Want to learn more about how advertisers are approaching GenAI? We surveyed over 200 marketing professionals from top agencies, brands, non-profits, and publishers to better understand advertiser sentiments around GenAI, as well as how they’re leveraging GenAI tools in their work. Check out the top takeaways in our report, Generative AI and the Future of Marketing.

In 2020, many leaders committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at their organizations in response to the movement for racial justice set in motion by the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Four years later, some those commitments appear to be wavering, with forecasts estimating that organizational DEI investments will fall by 13% in 2024 compared to 2022. In the advertising sector specifically, recent layoffs at Google and Meta resulted in downsized DEI programs, and investment in diverse-owned media companies has slowed.

It seems that for many companies, amidst continuing economic uncertainty and in the lack of acute public pressure such as that felt in the wake of Floyd’s murder, DEI has been relegated to a “non-mission critical” investment.

Despite these trends, much of the advertising industry remains committed to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and there is ample opportunity for continued prioritization and growth of DEI efforts.

To further explore how leaders can make meaningful strides toward DEI at their organizations, we sat down with Lois Castillo, Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Basis Technologies. Lois, a veteran of both DEI and advertising work, recently wrapped up Basis Technologies’ first virtual IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility) summit, an event aimed at integrating IDEA principles more deeply into Basis’ organizational culture. Below, she shares what companies can be doing better in their DEI work, how DEI leaders can anchor themselves amidst the complexity of that work, and how the IDEA summit served to advance Basis’ DEI-focused goals.

What are leaders getting wrong about DEI work in 2024?

Lois Castillo: First, the obvious answer: Not doing it.

By this point, leaders should understand that DEI is not just an ethical imperative, or good for business, but something organizations can’t survive without. The world is a diverse place that’s only getting more diverse, and if companies don’t reflect that increased diversity, they’re just not going to make it. When businesses don’t change with the times, they perish—for example, look at what happened to Blockbuster’s once streaming TV became the norm. The same thing goes for leaders: If you’re not doing your own work and development around DEI and bringing that into your organization, you’re not going to be leading for much longer.

When it comes to companies taking action, a common mistake I notice is treating DEI as solely the responsibility of HR. While fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion among employees is crucial, that’s just one aspect of the work. Companies that fail to make a real impact are likely fixating solely on this aspect instead of adopting a holistic approach that extends beyond their own workforce.

My team takes a three-pronged approach, addressing DEI in the following areas:

Additionally, I think it’s worth noting that companies that don’t include accessibility in their DEI work are missing the mark. To be truly inclusive of diverse team members, we need to work towards an accessible workplace—one that considers the spectrum of ability and neurodiversity and works to ensure that everyone on those spectrums can succeed.

How do you approach the vastness and complexity of DEI work?

LC: Well, I start with transparency and honesty—I don’t pretend I know everything. But I love people, and I’m curious about people, and I’m committed to constantly learning about the issues that people experience so that I can better address them in my work.

It’s true that all the axes of diversity among us can get overwhelming if you start to think about it, and that there’s a lot of work that must be done to address those axes individually. At the same time, there are ways we can address all of them at once, like creating shared language and behaviors for interacting with each other in the workplace that are rooted in respect and accountability—for example, calling someone in instead of calling them out when they make a mistake.

This isn’t easy work, that’s for sure. It’s not for the faint of heart. But that doesn’t mean you give up!

Tell us about the IDEA Summit. What was your main goal in organizing this event?

LC: First, let me break down what the summit looked like. We organized a variety of sessions, each with an expert speaker who shared stories and insights based on a specific aspect of inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA). We had sessions on topics including how ageism shows up the workplace, how to foster inclusive environments for neurodivergent folks, and what great allyship looks like in practice. In addition to presentations from our experts, the sessions provided space for dialogue, where our employees could share personal experiences, ask questions, and engage with each other.

One of my main goals behind the event was to help move our culture forward by grounding everyone in the same language and knowledge. There are so many people with so many different life experiences at our company, and I wanted us to get grounded around the complexity and the multifaceted nature of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I think when people hear the word “diversity,” they’re often thinking of gender and race. But we’re diverse in so many ways, and they all intersect. So, advancing our people’s knowledge and vocabulary of those differences was a big part of the event.

What do you hope people took away from the IDEA Summit? And what was your favorite part about the event?

LC: I hope people walked away with curiosity about all the different ways people exist in the world, and with actionable tools that can help them in their own learning journeys around inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility. Many of the topics at this specific event were geared around self, encouraging people to investigate their own experiences. I hope the sessions inspired people to get curious about their own experiences of difference in the world, as well as their triggers, blind spots, and biases. It’s important to get curious about yourself, because that will more than likely translate into curiosity about others’ experiences.

I think my favorite part of the summit was just watching the chats in these sessions and seeing all the engagement and the different questions and contributions people had. I loved seeing how participants felt free and safe enough to share their vulnerability. It’s really meaningful to see presentations and conversations resonating with people, and to see them feel secure enough to bring their personal lives and experiences into conversations with their colleagues.

Learn more about Basis Technologies’ commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility here.

When you’re online looking for crowdsourced recommendations from passionate people, where and how do you look? With so much product recommendation content out there these days, we can’t be the only ones adding “Reddit” at the end of our searches (à la “best vacuum cleaner reddit”) in search of honest recommendations and reviews.

In fact, this is likely one of the most common ways Reddit shows up in the lives of people who don’t participate regularly in one of the social media network’s 100,000+ interest-based communities. Add it all up, and Reddit is the third-most visited website in the US and the seventh-most visited site in the world.

Amongst advertisers, the platform isn’t as widely leveraged as YouTube or TikTok. But with a variety of factors bringing new challenges to historically dominant social media networks—not to mention the strides Reddit has made in recent years to up its advertising value—some advertisers are newly considering whether the platform makes sense for their brands.

If you want to learn more about what Reddit is, what it offers advertisers, and how to make the most of its advertising opportunity, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for everything you need to know about advertising on this one-of-a-kind social platform.

So, what’s this Reddit thing all about, anyway?

Unfamiliar with Reddit? You’re not the only one! Before we get into how and when advertisers might want to use the platform, let’s get clear on how it works.

Reddit is home to thousands of interest-based communities, or subreddits, where users connect and converse with each other. The site has over 51 million active monthly users across the US and more than 430 million around the globe.

One of the main ways Redditors engage is via posts, which can be marked as public to the entire internet or as viewable only to other Redditors in a certain subreddit. Users engage with posts by commenting and either upvoting (clicking a button to indicate that they found the post valuable or relevant) or downvoting (clicking a button to indicate that they did not find the post valuable or relevant) the post. The more upvotes a post gets, the more visibly it is displayed on Reddit. Check out the front page of Reddit to see the most popular (i.e., the most upvoted) posts of today—they range from breaking news, to funny videos, to celebrity gossip, to interviews with interesting people.

Good to know! Next question: What Reddit’s audience like?

It’s a great question, as Redditors are a unique bunch!

One of the most unique benefits of the Reddit audience is that it’s a highly engaged one: As Reddit itself says, “Redditors don’t doom-scroll—they engage with intent.” Reddit is also a great way to reach millennials, as they represent about 40% of the platform’s users. At the same time, Redditors trust the content on the platform: 85% of them agree that their peers post things that are “honest and truthful”, which explains why so many turn to the site when searching for reviews and recommendations.

That being said, the fact that Redditors are so highly engaged and passionate about the topics they engage in comes with some caveats for marketers. Redditors are protective about their communities—a quality which has led to the perception that there’s an anti-advertising sentiment on the platform. According to Reddit, however, Redditors don’t dislike ads in and of themselves—they dislike “sneaky” ads.

Sounds like it has some real marketing potential—why aren’t more advertisers talking about it?

Despite the platform’s large, engaged user base and its clear staying power, there’s a sentiment in the advertising community that Reddit has often been the platform playing catch-up when it comes to developing innovative features for users and advertisers alike.

Still, despite its relatively simple interface (to put it kindly…), Reddit has made some serious strides in just the past year to make itself more attractive to marketers—and, in particular, performance marketers. In 2023 alone, the platform announced Reddit Brand Lift and Reddit Conversion Lift for enhanced measurement, as well as Product Ads and Contextual Keyword Targeting. The platform has also invested heavily in delivering a personalized and localized user experience to international audiences. Its untapped search advertising potential (which it will no doubt try to harness amidst hints that an IPO could be around the corner) makes Reddit a worthy channel for advertisers to, at the very least, keep an eye on.

Overall, while Reddit has thus far struggled to establish itself as a cornerstone in the social advertising landscape, the platform is in an exciting place to capture more of marketers’ social ad spend—if it plays its cards right.

Does advertising on Reddit makes sense for all brands?

While Reddit can work for brands in most industries, marketers working in sectors that have particularly active audiences on the platforms, such as consumer, gaming, and tech, are especially well-situated to tap in. However, Reddit’s big marketing appeal—its ability to direct ad spending towards very specific target audiences in a privacy-friendly way—is relevant for businesses of all kinds.

Because Reddit is home to so many niche communities—from birders, to board gamers, skincare addicts, sound system afficionados, and everyone in between—there’s a big opportunity to serve ads specifically to people who are already engaging in an interest relevant to your product or service. Marketers using Reddit can target by community (to serve ads to a specific subreddit), interest (to reach a larger audience across multiple subreddits), location (to target Redditors in specific geographies), and custom audiences (to re-engage with consumers who have already engaged with their business in some way).

Even more, as the advertising world prepares for the loss of third-party cookies in Chrome and adjusts to the uptick in privacy-focused digital advertising regulation—not to mention the clear consumer demand for privacy-first marketing—contextual targeting will become a critical piece of any brand’s marketing investment. That makes Reddit’s community- and interest-based targeting options all the more valuable. These contextual capabilities will be a big differentiator for Reddit and may drive more marketing dollars towards the platform as social ad spend continues to fragment and marketers prioritize privacy-friendly targeting opportunities.

OK, I’m in! But how do I make the most of advertising on Reddit?

The golden question! Let’s dig into what you should consider when investing in Reddit to ensure your dollars are used strategically.

First and foremost, make sure to read up on Reddit’s Advertising Policy and ensure that all your campaigns comply.

Next, when it comes to crafting creative for Reddit, here are some key tips:

Once you’ve crafted your creative, make sure to set a clear objective or KPI to analyze the performance of your campaign against. This will help you keep track of what’s working and what isn’t once the campaign is up and running.

From there, make sure to set a long enough flight for your test to ensure that the platform can optimize based on initial learnings. Your test should last for at least four weeks, and preferably for eight weeks. As part of the testing process, incorporate A/B tests—of ad formats, ad creatives, headlines, post text, and CTAs—into your campaign to see what resonates the most with your target audiences.

Next, while Reddit can be a standalone platform for advertising efforts, it works best as part of a full funnel, omnichannel approach. While the platform has come a long way in improving its performance marketing offerings, it has a lot of value as an upper-funnel channel, as many users visit the site to research and discover new ideas and products. As such, it can work well for building brand awareness with highly engaged target audiences. To move prospect audiences further down the funnel, marketers can pair Reddit campaigns with channels like Meta and Google Search to round out their omnichannel efforts.

Despite its effectiveness, adding a new channel to any digital campaign can be daunting for marketers, if only due to the sheer number of different platforms they must navigate. To ease this burden, some teams may seek out platforms that automatically pull in campaign performance data from multiple platforms—including social platforms such as Reddit, Snapchat, and TikTok—and centralizing them within a single interface. This provides advertisers with a single source of truth, allowing them to view their campaigns holistically, while saving time and reducing manual labor by eliminating the need to toggle back and forth between platforms.

TL;DR: Everything You Need to Know About Marketing on Reddit

Phew! That was a lot. Let’s wrap it up with a brief summary of what was discussed—or, as Redditors like to tag summaries under particularly long posts, TL;DR (too long; didn’t read).

Overall, Reddit is chasing some of the more established social media marketing channels. That said, the platform is in a particularly interesting position as social ad spend fragments and the industry quickens its pace towards a privacy-friendly norm. For advertisers who want to tap into engaged, niche communities, Reddit presents a great opportunity to test, learn, and grow.

Social fragmentation and privacy-friendly marketing are just two of the trends shaping the marketing landscape today. Want a better understanding of all the trends that will impact advertisers in 2024? Check out our 2024 Trends Report.

As advertisers continue to grapple with signal loss, the pressure is on for organizations to up their first-party data game.

Factors like Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, privacy-minded digital advertising regulation, and Google’s plan to fully deprecate third-party cookies in Chrome by the end of 2024 have led to new interest in first-party data, with advertisers eager to substitute their reliance on third-party cookies with privacy-first forms of targeting and attribution. And first-party data is perhaps the heaviest hitter on that list.

Because first-party data is provided directly by consumers, it allows advertisers to learn about their audience, craft personalized messages, and understand what tactics are most impactful in their path to purchase—all with a high degree of precision. Unfortunately, because of the advertising industry’s historic reliance on third-party cookies, many businesses haven’t prioritized first-party data to the extent they’ll need to in a privacy-first world.

Looking for some guidance on where to begin this process? You’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn everything advertisers need to know about collecting and storing first-party data for cookieless targeting and attribution.

Ensuring Privacy Compliance

To maximize their first-party data, advertisers must collect, store, and leverage it in ways that honor consumer privacy and comply with digital advertising regulations.

To do this effectively means not just compliance with data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA/CPRA, but also prioritizing the larger demand behand these regulations: Namely, that consumers want more control over whether or not businesses have access to their data, and more transparency into how their data is used and stored.

Studies have found that 68% of global consumers feel either somewhat or very concerned about their online data privacy, and nearly half of consumers say that websites and apps don’t provide enough information about how their data is used. However, 78% of consumers say they are more likely to share their data with a company they trust, indicating that companies can bolster their first-party data collection efforts by demonstrating they are committed to handling that data with integrity and care.

To do this, marketers should start by conducting a holistic analysis to account for the business goals that consumer data empowers, getting specific about what data is needed to reach those goals. Tapping legal counsel will help ensure data processing practices are airtight from the start—a close collaboration between legal and marketing teams will ensure that businesses are able to collect the most impactful first-party data available to them while honoring consumer privacy and adhering to regulations.

Additionally, marketers should seek out technology partners that share their commitment to honoring consumer privacy—for example, those that have achieved SOC 2 compliance. Failing to vet partners’ data protection practices can open companies up to both legal consequences and consumer backlash.

How to Collect First-Party Data

Once a business has set up the appropriate systems to ensure privacy compliance, they’ll want to maximize their collection of first-party data. There are a variety of ways to go about this, including:

These approaches will vary by industry, as different sectors present different opportunities for data collection. For example, a B2B software company might prioritize collecting first-party data by offering whitepapers relevant to their target audience and requiring them to fill out a form to access them. A financial services brand could take a similar approach with gated site-based tools, such as loan calculators, that provide value to their target audiences. A retail business, on the other hand, is well-positioned to collect data through its point-of-sale system or a loyalty program.

With any approach to asking consumers for their data, marketers should be clear about what they’re offering in return—whether it’s a resource their target audience will find valuable, an exclusive coupon, or simply personalized marketing designed to meet their needs. This ensures that consumers are informed about how their data is being used, and serves to build brand trust as well.

How to Store First-Party Data

Beyond collecting first-party data and using it for targeting and attribution, it’s important to store this data in an organized, privacy-compliant, and easily accessible way. Currently, many organizations store first-party data across a variety of third-party vendors who collect and activate that data for a variety of functions. This means marketers only have access to very fragmented views of their consumers and their paths to purchase and, as a result, can’t leverage that data’s full potential. These data silos also make it difficult to track when and how consumers gave consent for the collection and use of their data.

To more effectively store and activate this information, business typically turn to two main technologies: customer relationship management systems (CRMs) and customer data platforms (CDPs).

CRMs were originally created to help salespeople track their interactions with current and prospective customers and optimize how they approach forming and maintaining those relationships. These tools have since grown to support marketing teams as well, pulling in data through integrations with touchpoints like a brand’s website, landing pages, and social media accounts and subsequently allowing marketers to create and segment audiences using that data. Some CRMs can also assist with other functions, such as workflow automation and consent management.

CDPs cover many of the same functions as CRMs, but they offer the added benefit of being built specifically for the collection, storage, and activation of first-party data. They can gather data from even more sources than CRMs can, process and standardize that data, and segment it in real-time, allowing advertisers to activate it more quickly. The depth of first-party data CDPs can capture gives advertisers a more holistic view of the customer journey across many touchpoints and a single source of truth when it comes to consumer data. Lastly, some CDPs can assist with data compliance by setting data governance standards.

While CRMs are widely adopted among digital advertisers, CDPs are a newer offering. For brands that really want to prioritize first-party data for privacy-first marketing amidst signal loss, CDPs can offer enhanced functionality for that specific purpose.

How to Leverage First-Party Data for Cookieless Targeting and Cookieless Attribution

CRMs and CDPs can organize large amounts of first-party data, which advertisers can use to create consumer personas and targetable audiences. Some advertising platforms allow marketers to create these targetable audiences via the direct upload of their CRM data, while others require the use of external partners to first process that data. CDPs, on the other hand, can automate the segmentation of audiences in real-time for use in targeting and measurement.

With the right platforms and partners, advertisers can also extend their first-party data via strategies such as lookalike modeling and layering first-party data with contextual targeting.

Once a campaign is live, there are a variety of ways advertisers can use first-party data for measurement and attribution. For example, they can integrate their first-party data sources with a single-touch attribution tool like Google Analytics. Some advertising platforms provide analytics dashboards that measure the impact of campaigns on users identified via uploaded CRM data. CDPs, meanwhile, can be used in the same way, and by offering a holistic view of the customer journey, they help advertisers understand how different interactions and touchpoints contribute to conversions.

Wrapping Up: Collecting and Storing First-Party Data for Cookieless Targeting and Attribution

By baking in privacy compliance from the outset, optimizing their methods for first-party data collection, and storing that data in a way that allows them to get the most out of it, advertisers will be well positioned to use first-party data for targeting and attribution in their campaigns. As the industry pivots towards practices that honor consumer privacy, organizations that invest in and refine their first-party data systems early will have a competitive advantage over teams that drag their feet on adopting privacy-first solutions.

Curious as to how your peers are approaching privacy-first advertising? Basis surveyed over 200 marketing and advertising professionals across agencies, brands, non-profits, and publishers to find out how they are grappling with signal loss. Check out the findings in our report, Identity vs. Privacy: Digital Advertising in a Cookieless World.

The next few years are set to be, shall we say, an educational time for marketers at colleges and universities. Over the course of 2024, Google plans to deprecate third-party cookies in Chrome, removing cookies for 1% of users in Q1 and the rest later in the year. When compounded with the signal loss advertisers are already dealing with as a result of things like consumer demand for data privacy, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, and the many privacy-related regulations that have cropped up in recent years, higher ed advertisers will need to shift towards digital advertising tactics that prioritize data privacy. On top of that, institutions will soon have to grapple with the college enrollment cliff, which promises to significantly reduce undergraduate enrollment starting in 2025, making it all the more urgent for colleges and universities to market themselves effectively and efficiently.

The good news? These massive upheavals provide a significant opportunity for advertisers to get creative and take a leading role in helping their organizations weather the storm.

To better understand what higher ed advertisers need to know about the privacy-first future, we spoke with education marketing expert Sydney Warden, Director of Integrated Client Solutions at Basis Technologies. Read on for her insights on how to adapt to signal loss and the cookieless future.

What’s your biggest advice for education advertisers as we move towards a cookieless future?

Sydney Warden: Once third-party cookies go away, first-party data will need to be a higher priority for all marketing teams. As such, my biggest advice for advertisers in higher ed is to help their brand or clients get their first-party data in order.

I often see colleges and universities where their first-party data is spliced in so many ways: satellite campuses versus the main campus, online versus brick and mortar, and undergraduate versus graduate, to give a few examples. This can lead to data silos, where because of how first-party data is collected and stored at these organizations, advertisers can’t access it efficiently—or, in some cases, access it at all. Because of this, a lot of higher ed organizations are very reliant on third-party data, and that could present a big problem as cookies go away.

I also often see universities using third party providers to house customer data gathered from website touchpoints such as registrations or newsletter sign ups. In those situations, advertisers aren’t even able to pixel those touchpoints, let alone access that data.

As a result, it’s going to be key for colleges and universities to start unifying all their data. Investing in a customer data platform (CDP) will be a good call for many institutions, as this can ensure that the collection and organization of first-party data is unified and organized moving forward. CDPs can also empower advertisers to maximize their first-party data for targeting and help with attribution by giving marketers a clearer view of the touchpoints in a consumer journey and how they contribute to enrollments or other kinds of conversions.

What cookieless marketing solutions are particularly useful for education advertisers?

SW: Beyond first-party data, I think a data management platform (DMP) solution and contextual targeting will be really key for colleges and universities.

DMPs allow advertisers to place pixels across a website or on specific actions in the consumer journey, gathering insight into visitor attributes such as household income, gender, age range, and location, and curating anonymized customer profiles. This not only helps advertisers learn more about the segments they’re targeting, but also allows them to build lookalike models to extend that targeting to new audiences. This is all pixel-based, not cookie-based, so it doesn’t collect personal data and is privacy-friendly. In addition to targeting, DMPs can empower attribution in a similar way to CDPs, by allowing marketers to get a view of the customer journey and which touchpoints are most impactful on conversions.

In regard to contextual targeting, advertisers can align with relevant content on websites or apps to serve ads in a privacy-friendly way. It pays to invest some time and money into figuring out what a target audience typically consumes and where they consume it, and then placing ads in that relevant content and on those relevant platforms to ensure the right audience sees it.

Could you provide some specific examples for how education advertisers might approach the cookieless future?

SW: Sure! For our first example, let’s take a mid-size or community college that has a more limited marketing budget. To make the most of their ad spend, I’d recommend leaning into hyper-personalization via first-party data, and focusing a bit further down the funnel via things like contextual advertising. For advertisers working for these organizations, it’s a good idea to have a curated list of local sites and contextual segments relevant to specific target audiences that they can build or tap into for their clients. As for the institutions themselves, they’ll want to work with partners who can offer those lists and segments.

Bigger and better-known universities that already have some brand recognition, as well as more funds for marketing, should focus more on upper funnel platforms such as CTV and social media (especially TikTok!) to maintain their brand recognition. This is beneficial not only for brand awareness, but also for filling retargeting pools. Also, these organizations will likely find it easier to tap into their first-party data and use it to reach out to former students who may be interested in returning, or to build some relevant lookalike audiences for targeting.

Wrapping Up: Cookieless Advertising for Higher Education Marketers

Higher education advertisers can lead their colleges and universities to privacy-first advertising success by setting the right strategies in place. Investing in the collection, organization, and extension of first-party data should be top priority for marketing teams, while a DMP solution and contextual targeting will also be key strategies. By leaning into these recommendations, higher ed marketers can rise to the top of their class in 2024.

Want to learn more about the state of identity in 2024? We surveyed over 200 marketing and advertising professionals to discover how they’re navigating signal loss, third-party cookie deprecation, and the shift towards privacy-first digital advertising. Check out all the latest data and insights in our in-depth report.

Cannabis advertisers have long had to navigate a maze of industry-specific federal, state, local, and platform-specific digital advertising regulations. On top of all that, they’ve had to adapt to signal loss across the digital advertising ecosystem, driven by factors like privacy-focused digital advertising regulations, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency on iPhone, and consumers’ data privacy demands.

Now, in 2024, they’ll have to grapple with yet another complication: Google’s phase-out of third-party cookies in Chrome. It’s a tough gummy to chew, but by understanding and investing in the cookieless solutions best suited to cannabis brands—and doing so as soon as possible—cannabis advertisers can gain a competitive edge in the privacy-first world.

To better explore these solutions, as well as the most important privacy and identity considerations for cannabis advertising, we spoke with cannabis marketing expert Jane Frye, Director of Integrated Client Solutions at Basis Technologies. Read on for her top insights on how cannabis advertisers can adapt to signal loss and the cookieless future.

What’s your biggest advice for cannabis advertisers as we move towards a cookieless future?

Jane Frye: The good news for cannabis advertisers is they’re already used to navigating limitations, so they’ll have an advantage over many of their counterparts from other industries. Advertising cannabis in the digital space is very challenging—first you have to understand the matrix of regulations, and then you have to get creative in order to really get your brand out there in a way that resonates with audiences. As a result, cannabis advertisers already have a wealth of transferable skills and knowledge that will help them to navigate the cookieless and privacy-first world.

Beyond leaning into those skills, cannabis advertisers will want to take the lead with clients in terms of educating them about privacy-first marketing. At the same time, it’s important to set realistic expectations for campaign success, as the performance benchmarks clients are used to will change as third-party cookies go away. So, make sure to communicate early and often about the implications of cookie loss and what’s possible in this new era of digital advertising.

For cannabis brands, my biggest piece of advice is to select the right partners. The most successful brands will be those who have carefully selected partners who are digitally savvy, experts in the cannabis space, and have a thorough understanding of the privacy landscape and cookieless solutions.

What cookieless marketing solutions are particularly useful for cannabis advertisers?

JF: The three that will really become cannabis advertisers’ bread and butter are first-party data, contextual advertising, and purchase or point of sale (POS) data.

First-party data is a no-brainer: It comes straight from people who have already spent with you or who have demonstrated some interest in spending, and it’s privacy-friendly to boot, so investing in the collection, organization, and maximization of that first-party data should be a priority for cannabis advertisers. Investing in something like a customer data platform (CDP), which can help not only with targeting but also with measurement, might make sense for your team if you really want to prioritize this.

Contextual targeting will also be key. Cannabis advertisers are already quite familiar with this tactic, as it’s a regulation-compliant form of advertising in many areas, and there are some prominent, high-traffic cannabis sites such as High Times, Leafly, Weed Maps and Jane that offer fantastic opportunities to connect with customers who want to learn about or purchase cannabis.

Finally, POS data can be used in the same way brands have historically used third-party data for targeting and attribution. If you’re not familiar with POS data, this is data gathered at dispensaries at the point of sale itself, such as when a customer enters their email during check out. It’s elective, so it’s privacy-friendly, and you can work with partners who anonymize that data and match it to a household ID. Using that household ID, you can then more accurately target people in different audiences—for example, people who spend over $300 per month on cannabis, people who buy edibles, or people who buy smoking devices. And once advertisers have that POS and household ID data at their disposal, they can also use it for measurement and attribution in the same way they are used to using third-party data.

One other example that I wouldn’t categorize as a “bread-and-butter” solution, but definitely something worth experimenting with, is geotargeting at big events where folks will likely be consuming cannabis. For instance, you could geotarget cities that people fly into when they’re headed to events like Coachella or Burning Man. Even things like yoga retreats or certain conferences could be ripe for location-based targeting.

Could you provide some specific examples for how cannabis advertisers might approach the cookieless future?

JF: There are a ton of startups in the cannabis space, so let’s begin with one of those as the first example. As I mentioned earlier, first-party data, contextual, and POS data should all play into your strategy. For startups, however, contextual is a particularly attractive solution, because there are a lot of very affordable and impactful placements you can buy. Advertisers should align their brands with large, high-traffic publications: They’re the first ones that come up when you search “cannabis” online, and they offer placements in email, display, and homepage takeovers. This is particularly great for startups, because it’s important for these brands to place themselves at the beginning of the consumer journey when people are trying to educate themselves.

Next, let’s dig into an example for brands who are more established in the cannabis space. Again, first-party data, contextual, and POS data will be your foundation. However, for brands who have a bit more money to spend, you could experiment with contextual placements that cost a bit more, like host-read podcast ads. Podcasts are a really impactful advertising opportunity, especially host-read ads, because podcast listeners are very engaged and tend to trust their hosts. Because of this, consumers are often more likely to consider brands they hear about via a podcast.

Wrapping Up: Cookieless Advertising for Cannabis Marketers

There you have it: By investing in first-party data, contextual targeting, and POS data, cannabis advertisers can set up systems that will pave the way to success in the privacy-first world, while honoring the demands of consumers. And if you want even more recommendations for how to succeed this year, check out 2024 Trends for Cannabis Advertisers.

Want to learn more about the state of identity in 2024? We surveyed over 200 marketing and advertising professionals to discover how they’re navigating signal loss, third-party cookie deprecation, and the shift towards privacy-first digital advertising. Check out all the latest data and insights in our in-depth report.

After not one, but two delays, the deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome is finally upon us. Google is drawing the process out a bit to help advertisers (and consumers) adjust to the changes, deprecating cookies for just 1% of Chrome users over the span of Q1 2024. However, given that 1% of Chrome users represents over 32 million people, it’s safe to say that things are getting real for advertisers.

Even if Google were to unexpectedly delay things yet again, the situation would still be an urgent one, given the signal loss advertisers have had to grapple with in recent years—a result of factors including Apple’s App Transparency, increased consumer demand for data privacy, and the continuing wave of privacy-related regulation. Automotive advertisers, notably, will need to move quickly, as they’ve invested heavily in digital for over a decade now and are thus more reliant on the targeting and attribution capabilities for which they’ve come to rely upon third-party cookies.

To learn how automotive marketers should approach this shift and what strategies they should invest in to set themselves up for success in a privacy-first world, we spoke with Jim Zabel, Basis Technologies’ VP of Brand and Agency Development – Auto, and a 25-year auto marketing industry veteran. Read on for his insights on how auto advertisers can adapt to the cookieless future.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for automotive advertisers as we move towards a cookieless future?

Jim Zabel: The auto industry is in a particularly interesting position because of the degree to which they’ve invested in digital marketing over the past 15 years. Even small and mid-sized auto businesses were early adopters. With cookies going away, the biggest question for brands and dealers is this: Can you accept the fact that the loss of third-party cookies will lower the performance benchmarks you’re used to seeing? I think this is going to be a big challenge to overcome. Companies will need to redefine success, and that’s going to require a significant mindset shift.

To use a non-cookie-related example, sometimes we’ll see clients want to stop a display or video campaign because they’re not seeing the same metrics as search. But performance for those channels isn’t comparable: Search is a lower-funnel tactic where you can see the conversions roll in, and the higher-funnel brand awareness achieved via display or video isn’t trackable in the same way. But that doesn’t mean those tactics aren’t revenue-driving and critical to a well-rounded campaign.

Similarly, without third-party cookies, brands and dealers won’t have access to the same depth of performance metrics. However, that doesn’t mean that their tactics and strategies aren’t driving revenue. For agencies working with dealers and brands, educating clients early and often on this point will be especially important.

A lot of auto brands and dealers are likely to want to stick with the status quo and prioritize short-term success and the maintenance of previous benchmarks, even if that means embracing cookie-like solutions that don’t fully honor the spirit of what consumers are asking for. But the brands and dealers who embrace the shift towards privacy-first advertising, and find new ways to measure performance, will have the most success in the long run.

What cookieless marketing solutions are particularly useful for automotive advertisers?

JZ: A handful of solutions come to mind here.

First, defining audience segments specific to the channels you’re advertising on is going to be very key. Advertisers need to really understand where their customers are consuming media, and media mix modelling can be helpful here to identify the highest value tactics in your campaigns. Automotive marketing teams should also up their investments in audience research and develop highly defined, channel-specific audience segments to enable their targeting. Of course, this goes along with investing in the collection, storage, and extension of first-party data—in a cookieless world, first-party data is king.

Contextual targeting will play a major role as well. Contextual allows advertisers to get very specific about who they’re serving ads to without directly relying upon third-party user data, thus respecting consumer privacy. Investing in partnerships with publishers who provide specific content and have a deep understanding of their consumers will be incredibly valuable to automotive dealers and brands.

Also, walled gardens have a big advantage because of all the first-party data they have access to. In a cookieless world, I think it’s very plausible that those walled gardens will use that advantage to oversell their value to advertisers. That’s not to say that advertisers shouldn’t take advantage of walled gardens—they’re a smart choice for enabling that targeting. Even more, the omnichannel nature of programmatic can help extend those investments, because advertisers can use data from those walled gardens to target other channels where targeting on its own is going to be a lot harder to do. At the same time, it’s important not to overinvest in walled gardens: For most marketing teams, your own first party data should be the priority.

Leveraging a customer data platform (CDP) to organize and leverage that first-party data (more on CDPs in a bit) can also help advertisers on the attribution side, because CDPs allow advertisers to track a user across various touchpoints, and see how each tactic contributes to the eventual conversion. Advertisers should also reprioritize brand lift studies and cookieless conversion attribution tools to assist on the attribution side.

Could you provide some specific examples for how automotive advertisers might approach the cookieless future?

JZ: Let’s start with dealerships as the first example. Dealerships are sitting on treasure troves of first-party data, and there’s a massive opportunity to harness that data for their own marketing. At the same time, as data modeling becomes more accessible, there’s a real potential for dealerships to coordinate targeting and digital media tactics with brands, and vice versa. Many dealer groups are adopting CDPs to increase their ability to organize their first-party data into relevant segments and use it for audience modeling as well. I’ve seen a lot more appetite to get those sophisticated capabilities in-house, and I think that’s a smart choice for dealers of any size.

Next, let’s explore the brand side of things. Overall, brands need to rethink their data strategies, both in terms of collecting and maximizing their own first-party data, and in terms of coordinating with dealers to make the most of the wealth of data they can offer. Getting proactive about gathering that data from dealerships and setting up systems that ensure that data is being shared in privacy-compliant ways is my biggest recommendation for advertisers working with brands.

And, as I mentioned earlier, both dealers and brands should prioritize audience research, contextual, privacy-compliant programmatic, and cookieless attribution tools.

Wrapping Up: Cookieless Advertising for Automotive Marketers

As the digital advertising industry shifts to a privacy-first paradigm, automotive marketers are at a pivotal crossroads—pun very much intended. Brands and dealers can either cling to the old status quo, or they can overcome signal loss by prioritizing consumers’ demands and embracing data privacy, as well as the new benchmarks for success that come with it. Those who play the long game—identifying new ways to measure success and investing in audience research, first-party data, contextual targeting, privacy-compliant programmatic, and cookieless attribution tools—will have a competitive edge going into the privacy-first future.

Want to learn more about the state of identity in 2024? We surveyed over 200 marketing and advertising professionals to discover how they’re navigating signal loss, third-party cookie deprecation, and the shift towards privacy-first digital advertising. Check out all the latest data and insights in our in-depth report.

Oh, agencies. What hasn’t the world thrown at you lately? COVID-19? Check. The Great Resignation? Check. New regulations, the rise of generative AI, and the planned deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome: Check, check, check. Did we mention media fragmentation yet? Or prolonged economic turbulence and uncertainty?

We could go on, but you get the idea: There have been so many non-stop changes in the digital advertising world that trying to manage it all can feel like a never-ending game of Whac-A-Mole. How can agency leaders approach this evolution thoughtfully and strategically, despite the many unknowns?

To find out, we spoke with five industry veterans to gather their insights into what agency leaders need to know about this moment and identify how they can situate their organizations to not only adapt as the industry transforms, but to lead the way towards positive change.

What are the biggest pressures and challenges forcing agencies to evolve?

Katie McAdams, Chief Marketing Officer, Basis Technologies: Fragmentation and the proliferation of platforms needed to execute media have increased at a pace that agencies cannot keep up with without adding headcount and costs. At the same time, agencies need to drive profit, growth, and media spend.

April Weeks, EVP of Media Services and Operations, Basis Technologies: The rapid emergence of AI and increasing role of technology within business operations, the need to deliver a cohesive performance story across all channels/data sets, and preparation for third-party cookie deprecation and the various related impacts to campaign performance, including signal loss. Many agencies also continue to deal with talent retention challenges and labor costs. At the same time, agency leaders are faced with balancing business growth, navigating a rapidly changing marketing landscape, and economic headwinds.

The urgency for agencies to evolve can be linked to all these pressures, coupled with a need to provide increased value for clients. Many processes and ways of working within agencies are rooted in legacy systems that do not garner efficiency or allow talent to focus on the highest-value client work. With the rate of change happening across the industry, agencies that do not develop a framework and plan for modernizing their operational model that’s inclusive of AI and technology will likely encounter increased challenges with both client and talent retention—all  during a time when there will likely be downward pressure from clients to deliver more for less cost.

Ryan Manchee, SVP of Brand Marketing, Basis Technologies: In-housing and talent recruitment/retention are two of the biggest pressures pushing agencies to evolve—but it’s not that simple. While the momentum around the in-housing trend has tapered, the threat remains that a brand will bring certain functions in-house, leaving agencies without that business. Meanwhile, brands in-house because they believe they can do the work better (i.e., cheaper, more transparently, or faster), whether that relates to media buying, creative production, or something else. The other big issue is around both the recruitment and retention of talent. There has always been volatility for agencies around talent, but we've seen a growing trend to add more mid- and junior-level employees to complete intense work that isn’t the most inspiring. Then the pandemic hit, and now agencies are pushing for a return to the office. These factors combined are enough to push a significant number of future agency leaders to switch industries.

Mike Olson, SVP of Agency Development, Basis Technologies: Evolving talent, slow-paying clients, high interest rates, and challenges to winning new business are forcing agencies to evolve. Agencies are caught in the middle between clients who are cutting budgets and paying slower, and platforms that have tight payment terms. On top of that, if an agency needs to get an increased LOC (Letter of Credit) from their bank, the interest rate is prohibitive from a cost of capital perspective. So, agencies will continue to build a puzzle of platforms with longer payment terms so they can address any necessary cash situations to keep their businesses fiscally healthy.

How can agencies stay competitive and prepare for the coming changes driven by these pressures and challenges?

AW: I recommend implementing a test and learn approach, where you have the ability to take smart risks and fail fast. Don’t wait to understand how changes in the industry will impact your business. Begin taking steps now to experiment with AI, explore how technology can drive operational value for your business, and understand where your internal talent spends their time and how to maximize their value for the business. While many agencies are already doing so, don’t underestimate the value of preparing clients for third-party cookie deprecation and how that will impact data strategies and campaign analytics.

RM: Agencies are hired by brands because of a specialty, because of their unique point of view, and because they stay on top of what’s new and what’s coming. Agencies also help drive culture and align a brand’s products or services with cultural moments, so they are memorable. The agencies that keep these aspects of their service in focus have been and will stay competitive and successful. As an industry, we’re often too focused on innovation of technology over the importance of intersecting with culture.

MO: Agencies need to take a stance of support—and also of accountability—to their talent. By providing a culture that allows for the best employees to continue to iterate on how to achieve success differently, your team will feel empowered to continue driving the business forward. By keeping your best talent engaged, motivated, autonomous, and focusing on executing day to day, agency leaders will help ensure revenue, so the fiscal health of the business is sustainable. At the same time, it’s important for agency leadership to acknowledge that despite the best culture and talent, macroeconomic headwinds can still get in the way of business goals. And making sure employees are contributing to the culture and company that is providing for them is critical to keep the business growing.

Zach Moore, SVP of Digital Media Operations, Basis Technologies: Agencies need to always be thinking about the uncertainty that brands face around the world every single day. An agency always needs to continue to evolve their service offerings to stay competitive, and of course, that means investing in your people. Agencies should be doubling down on talent, keeping their best and brightest, and really pushing for technology to take on more of the tasks that, while absolutely business critical, don’t inspire and retain clients.

In your conversations with agency leaders, what topics are forefront on their minds? How are they thinking about the evolution of agencies?

AW: In my conversations with agency leaders, the topics of business growth, coupled with short-term economic uncertainty, are typically top-of-mind. Everyone seems to be focused on what they can do to create cost savings and efficiency within the business while continuing to meet client needs. This creates an opportunity for agency leaders to evaluate the role of technology within their business.

MO: A few topics are at the forefront of my conversations with agency leaders. First: how ready they are for cookie deprecation. If an agency is a heavy digital spender and is not testing cookieless conversions and contextual targeting capabilities, they are already behind. How to win larger clients is another big topic, as well as how to break up with smaller clients that require too much work from internal teams. Shoring up platform agreements to help with the flow of cash in and out of the agency is definitely top of mind. On top of all of that, agencies are thinking about how to provide a culture and environment where talent can thrive and produce good work. Whether, why, and how to return to the office is on a lot of leaders’ minds right now.

In terms of how agency leaders are thinking about evolving, it all comes down to getting clear on what their business excels at, and then doubling down with good talent while reducing efforts to try and “boil the ocean,” which tends to end with you doing everything just OK.

With automation tools and generative AI already making an impact throughout the industry, how will the adoption of AI-driven tools and technologies shape the future of agencies?

AW: AI- and automation-driven tools will reshape how deliverables are created as well as their associated timelines for creation, and job descriptions will adapt as a result. Work that currently takes multiple teams will be reduced to fewer people, timelines for development and delivery will accelerate, and roles within agencies will become less siloed with some aspects of the campaign development and execution process becoming fully automated. Through automation, there will be an opportunity to evaluate where talent is best utilized, and shift their time from low-value to high-value tasks. Through these changes, it is likely we will see opportunities to explore new ways of monetizing the agency/client relationship.

RM: Mitigating the mundane and monotonous to free up time for the fun and fantastic. If AI and automation can deliver on that promise, then agencies will be well positioned for growth, and for their team’s growth.

KM: Generative AI is having a moment right now, and while it’s not going away, I think the hype is going to die down once we start to see a lot of AI-generated content and creative that looks and sounds the same. Marketers need to be smart about how and when to use GenAI. It can be a great starting point to spur creativity and save time, but I think smart marketers and agencies are thinking about how their teams can grow more effective by using these tools, not how they will be replaced by them altogether.

MO: Humans should not be completely removed from the equation. The magic place we want to get to is a beneficial blend of AI and humans to ensure efficiencies throughout the agency. Shifting employee responsibilities from low-value work to high-value strategic work will not only empower them to grow, but also allow businesses to reduce costs needed to pay people for low-value activities that machines can do quickly and accurately.

ZM: I think the noise around AI and creative production has been a bit of a letdown. Swapping backgrounds and images on a bunch of display ads has been around in various forms for years. I would encourage less focus on that and more of a commonsense approach that looks to incorporate AI basics into the typical employees’ routine and process, to help them become better, more knowledgeable, and more effective at their job.

What’s your biggest “hot take” on the future of agencies?

KM: With deprecation of the cookie finally nearing (we think?!?), we may see agencies shifting back towards relying on their creative and storytelling to drive performance. I think we’ve gone so far in the direction of focusing on audience targeting tactics that the creative often ends up taking a back seat in the conversation. It’ll be exciting to see how we can move the creative back into the driver’s seat, and I think the industry is ready for that to happen.

MO: Agencies that can run their business and generate profit by focusing on their core competencies will continue to thrive, so long as the culture to attract top talent remains in place. Growth at all costs is no longer a winning strategy. Intentionality on profitability is critical. We know the media side of our business evolves daily, so staying current and ahead of technological and device trends is crucial to guide clients and gain trust. Also, we cannot ignore creative. The cornerstone of any successful ad campaign is compelling creative. AI can help to build units quickly, but to conceptually develop captivating creative is a unique skill set that's innately human.

The Future of Agencies: Wrapping Up

While the best approach to evolution will vary based on each agency’s characteristics, strengths, and goals, there are a few north stars leaders can follow to ensure they aren’t left behind. These include prioritizing creative, leading the way in adopting privacy-friendly advertising methods, and investing strategically in AI- and automation-driven tools designed to make your teams more efficient while allowing them to focus on more strategic and fulfilling tasks.

Regardless, there is a lot for agency leaders to keep track of as our industry evolves. Want an easy way to stay up to date on all the latest developments and thought leadership? Sign up for Basis Scout and we’ll send all the best digital marketing articles, POVs, and reports straight to your inbox each month.

Digital healthcare. Personalized medicine. Artificial intelligence. Like the broader healthcare landscape, the pharmaceutical industry is in the midst of quite a technological revolution! While many of these innovations present new and exciting opportunities for pharma brands, digital marketers may be feeling a bit of whiplash from the speed with which they're taking hold.

And it’s not just pharmaceutical systems and tools that are changing. The marketing landscape is evolving as well, as marketing teams prioritize the adoption of digital technologies and channels that grant them more granularity, precision, and efficiency. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry is projected to see an over 40% increase in digital advertising spend from 2021 to 2024.

To understand the biggest opportunities in the pharma marketing space right now, we spoke with Ryan Sperry, VP of Integrated Client Solutions at Basis Technologies. With a decade’s worth of digital marketing experience, and specific expertise within the pharma space, Ryan has a deep understanding of how marketers can adapt to the complex landscape and set their campaigns apart.

Read on for Ryan's top insights for pharmaceutical marketing in 2023:

Basis Technologies: What’s the hottest thing in pharma marketing right now?

Ryan Sperry: I’d say the need for taking an omnichannel approach, which focuses on creating a seamless, holistic customer experience across all the channels where an audience spends time. It's not a new concept—omnichannel marketing has been around in media for quite a while, especially with digital. But traditionally in the pharma sector, there’s been a focus on a multi-channel approach, and just hitting patients in different places without a cohesive strategy. Now, there's a growing focus on omnichannel, and that’s true for both healthcare provider (HCP) and patient targeting.

On the patient side, this is especially important because a lot of consumers these days are doing their own research to figure out what healthcare decisions they want to make. They expect ads to speak to them directly with content that makes sense based on where they fall in the patient journey. Marketers in the pharma industry are starting to realize that with a targeted and data-driven approach, they can tailor their targeting and creative to do more to maximize ROI.

To start transitioning into an omnichannel approach, it’s helpful to look at where you’re reaching someone in the patient journey, as well as where patients are first being introduced to the brand. Are you reengaging them after they've visited your website? Are you reengaging them when they're at the doctor's office? The idea here is for your marketing strategy to be cohesive, rather than just a bunch of different branding ads in a bunch of different places.

BT: How will artificial intelligence and the rise of personalized medicine impact pharma marketers?

RS: Patients are gaining more and more power when it comes to healthcare decision-making. There’s even a good chance that they will soon have the ability to automate their diagnoses by entering data into AI-driven personalized medicine platforms. And, with the rise of personalized health tools like fitness trackers, patients also have new data to work with that makes it easier for them to self-diagnose. As pharmaceutical technology and patient enablement increase with AI innovations, patients will have even more agency to make health decisions before they even step foot in a doctor’s office.

This is something pharma marketers will need to pay attention to, because these developments will push people into even more contextually relevant digital spaces. As patient behavior changes (along with the spaces in which those patients spend their time, be it condition-specific centers or telehealth platforms), marketers will need to keep tabs on the shifts and adjust their strategies accordingly.

BT: What’s one of the biggest keys to a successful pharma campaign in today’s landscape?

RS: Having the right measurement structures in place. As with any campaign, it’s important to go beyond front-end metrics like impressions and clicks if you want to see real results. Unified reporting and measurement can help create a cohesive omnichannel strategy that speaks directly to individual HCPs and patients, and stands out in a crowded market.

On the patient side, for example, you’ll want to look at things like audience quality—which allows marketers to measure how well their reached audience matches with their intended audience—and RX lift studies, where marketers can use tools like IQVIA or Crossix to measure prescription lift as a result of digital advertising. Then, teams can better assess whether they’re seeing ROI from those campaigns and optimize accordingly.

Interested in working with experts like Ryan? Connect with us to find out how our media strategy and activation services put pharma marketers on the cutting edge of HCP and patient targeting.