Criteo pivot hints at ad tech’s future in a regulated, cookie-free world

The company’s new Traffic Generation solution uses first-party data to drive engagement for upper-funnel campaigns.

Criteo pivot hints at ad tech’s future in a regulated, cookie-free world |

Criteo has launched a new Traffic Generation solution that relies on the ad tech company’s first-party data, enabling marketers to connect with consumers via upper-funnel campaigns. It’s a swift turn from the Criteo’s usual offering and underscores the need for ad tech firms to pivot away from using targeting data that is not only becoming scarce, but putting companies at risk of litigation.

“This is a significant change for Criteo, which has already optimized conversions through retargeting, and is now enabling marketers to drive real brand results higher in the purchase lifecycle,” said Criteo’s General Manager and EVP of Web Cédric Vandervynckt.

Earlier this month, Criteo confirmed it was under investigation by the French data protection group CNIL as a result of a complaint filed by Privacy International. A Criteo spokesperson told TechCrunch the investigation was not directed at Criteo alone: “The complaint was not specifically targeted at Criteo or its specific practices, but instead was spread across 7 companies and 3 DPAs, challenging in a general manner the practices of data brokers, ad tech firms, and credit scoring firms.”

Still, the legal implications of privacy statutes such as the GDPR and CCPA are putting a spotlight on data broker practices and the way these firms collect and use consumer data for ad targeting purposes. Just this year, Jumpshot and Hitwise, both analytics firms, closed shop.

What Criteo’s new solution offers

First rolled out in beta to more than 750 of the company’s clients, Criteo’s Traffic Generation targeting tool relies on real-time, first-party data to help advertisers connect with prospects in “high-intent moments” who are higher up in the sales funnel.

The tool includes multiple audience targeting capabilities: a lookalike audience targeting feature called Similar Audiences; a Commerce Audience feature with access to more than 300 in-market audiences aggregated using Criteo’s first-party data and Custom Audiences that enables marketers to re-engage with lapsed users. The tool also comes with a self-serve user interface, optimized bidding and creative layouts based on Criteo’s interactive display formats.

Ad targeting in a cookie-less world

The elimination of cookies and growing user data regulations means the old-school ad targeting — and retargeting — options are going to be left by the wayside. Criteo’s new tool is a prime example of an ad tech platform building new solutions that will help it remain relevant as granular targeting-data becomes a thing of the past.

“Changes to browser technology (like ITP, ETP, et al.) are making the persistent of user identity for targeting much more difficult,” said Simon Pouton, VP of digital intelligence for Wpromote, “This means the traditional retargeting model is likely to run into some challenges, both in terms of persistent targeting on the same users across sessions and in terms of reach and frequency.”

Poulton noted that, given the focus of Criteo’s new solution on app-centric initiatives, it’s likely the ad tech company is going all-in on mobile advertising IDs (MAIDs).

“While these are likely to weather the storm longer than cookies, they will also eventually face scrutiny from privacy advocates and likely face some degree of restriction as well,” said Poulton.

Why we care

An early user of Criteo’s Traffic Generation solution reported they had generated two-times more traffic. “Using Criteo’s lookalike AI, we’ve targeted new audiences at the top of the funnel and brought them to our site,” said Back Sung Ku, a manager of the marketing planning division for Dholic Ladies, a women’s fashion brand.

Driving upper-funnel engagement is great for brands looking to expand exposure and drive traffic, but it doesn’t necessarily help close the loop on sales. This is where brands will need to become more strategic in their conversion campaigns. Likewise, ad tech firms will need to reconsider their offerings and redefine their value proposition — not only to better serve clients, but also to ensure they are following data regulation laws.

“The fact that Criteo is expanding beyond retargeting audiences is a smart move on their behalf, but it’s also a very saturated market with many other players fighting for brand budgets,” said Poulton, “The challenges associated with measuring the impact of upper-funnel initiatives will persist as brands begin to try their solutions. It will be interesting to see how they can compete with the upper funnel power of Google and Facebook here as restrictions increase in scope.”

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.

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