Jan 24 2024
Eric Nelson

Cookieless Advertising for Financial Services Marketers


Heading into 2024, financial services marketers are facing an unenviable list of challenges: from convincing people to borrow money at today’s record-high rates; to communicating product value and service expertise in an ultra-competitive market full of disruptors; to reaching and converting unbanked, underbanked, or alternative-banking customers.

Not making things any easier? Ongoing signal loss, Google’s deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s interpretive rule that put responsibility for abiding by digital marketing regulations on both financial institutions and their agencies and partners.

But the financial services industry has proven resilient in the face of change. It’s better positioned for greater regulatory scrutiny. First-party consumer data is available, attainable, and actionable. And solutions abound for targeting and retargeting potential new customers and attributing their conversions—including inquiries, online applications, scheduled appointments, and more—to advertising campaigns.

To help financial services advertisers prepare for the cookieless future and adapt to signal loss, we spoke to Julia Hewitt, Basis VP of Integrated Client Solutions, about some of her top recommendations and insights.

What are the top considerations for financial services advertisers going into the cookieless future?

Julia Hewitt: The main consideration has to be how you’re reaching your audience online, which will look so much different next year than it did five years ago thanks to cookie loss, regulations, mobile ID erosion, and Apple’s App Tracking Transparency. Whether it’s through targeted advertising, organic content, or community sponsorships, financial services marketers need to cut through the noise to reach their ideal prospects at key moments of intent.

Then, once you reach them, what are you doing to help them connect with your brand and, ultimately, entice them to provide you with their first-party data? If people are clicking on your ad or going to your website, what content are you providing? Do you have tools they can use—let’s say, to calculate the cost of a loan? Or comparisons with other financial services? Do you have a newsletter they can sign up for that includes information that’s highly relevant to them and their needs? These are the sorts of things that could generate an inquiry or an opt-in that gives you the data you need for targeting, personalization, and attribution.

Of course, the challenges that come from this signal loss will affect reach and personalization. There are regulations that require you to comply with how you’re targeting people and how transparent you are with how you plan to use their data; we’ve seen it with programmatic advertising, we’ve seen it with Meta, we’ve seen it with Google. As cookies and the ability to track app data erode, timing and relevance gets more difficult. The important thing for finserv marketers is protecting these audiences. But the good news is we’re used to change. We’re used to adapting. This is just another wave to get through.

What cookieless solutions are particularly useful for financial services advertisers?

JH: Contextual targeting is a huge opportunity for financial services marketers and brands to lean into. When people are researching homes and home loans, cars and auto loans, home or auto insurance, credit card rates, and they’re researching because they intend to buy, borrow, or inquire. Advertising next to this content can strengthen awareness or trigger a decision to click and engage with these financial services companies. A big thing with contextual advertising is identifying the content, keywords, publishers, and/or private marketplaces that will connect your brand with moments that are important to your potential customers.

And, of course, using first-party data will be key. But to be able to use it, you first have to collect it. A company website can offer lots of places for that data collection, including inquiries, appointment schedulers, content downloads, or e-newsletter signups. The right martech can then help segment that data to apply it strategically so you’re not advertising home mortgage ads to 18-year-olds in college.

When collecting first-party data, it’s critical to keep regulations and customer expectations around data privacy top-of-mind. Inform users about how you’ll use their data, and make sure they have access to your data usage policies on your website to be compliant.

Finally, we can’t forget attribution, which will evolve over time. Finserv marketers who segment their audiences well and build relevant campaigns should be able to see what advertisements are being clicked on, and which websites and placements are providing the best ROI. Google Analytics or other web analytics dashboards can help, and there are several other attribution APIs in the works (including from Google) that will replace the “cookie trail” from ad exposure through event-level metrics to conversion. In general, marketers should have some quality options available to determine which sites and campaigns are driving the best quality traffic.

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

JH: Imagine a financial advisory brokerage that needs more financial advisors on staff, so they might decide to advertise to recruit a highly qualified type of person to provide that specific type of service.

They’ll want to set up their adtech stack well to be able to measure and analyze click-through data from their digital advertising campaigns with tactics like custom URL code instead of cookies, then determine the best-performing websites for ad placements and strengthen those partnerships. Then, they’ll use their first-party data to validate the type of professional they want to reach. And with that validation, they can get more hyper-targeted on LinkedIn, which is where the professionals are!

A similar process could apply in B2C marketing, too, measuring clicks on ads to determine high-performing placements and personas, then using machine learning and predictive modeling to find those personas and more who look like them, and targeting products or services that make sense for those personas.

There are also opportunities to use your website to identify specific audience behaviors and feed that information into a CRM for better segmentation. For example, web visitors might submit their email address when downloading an online guide to home-buying or to follow up on the results from an auto loan calculator. That can create first-party data sets that pull in more personal data. That category-level information can also enrich a person’s CRM record with zero-party or interest-level data, which can then be used for a more personalized, relevant ad experience.

Wrapping Up: Cookieless Advertising for Financial Services Marketers

The deprecation of third-party cookies doesn’t mean the depreciation of the value of advertising. In fact, taking a strategic approach to signal loss could yield higher gains. Finserv advertisers who collect first-party data intentionally, use contextual targeting, and leverage data analysis for segmentation and optimization can achieve targeting and message resonance at rates that would make the Fed jealous.

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.

Get the Report