More Articles

The Last of the Cookies.

It’s always sad when you’re down to your final few.

Article by
Charlie Hopper
Principal, Writer
Young & Laramore
Placeholder Image? Praveen gupta x Gw V6s 7 Euc unsplash

Perhaps, like me, you find yourself noticing when you’re being “a normal person” and when you’re being someone whose job is marketing to normal people. I kinda switch back and forth.

As “Normal Me,” I’m concerned about my privacy.

Also as Normal Me, I like getting somewhat relevant ads targeted to my interests as long as companies don’t get creepy with how much they know. I somewhat subconsciously appreciate a smartly targeted ad just fine as long as it doesn’t feel like an intrusion.

Ugh. Normal Charlie drives Marketer Charlie crazy.

Because Normal Me can’t have it both ways.

Normal Me is vaguely aware he’s dropping cookies haphazardly all over the internet. Marketer Me knows those cookies enable more nuanced, appropriate messages aimed at my actual interests and activities by professional media experts, instead of spammy, random, irrelevant messages. But Normal Me is uncomfortable with companies knowing my habits and proclivities.

So—at the end of the day, I guess I’m happy Apple is leading a charge to eliminate cookies, or at least encourage consumers to take control of their online lives. Which usually leads to opting out.

Messes up Marketer Me’s life, though. ’Cause with cookies, my friends and I can deliver useful restaurant marketing information at the precise point our customers are in the ol’ marketing funnel—for example, when they’re making a decision, I can push messages about how fast my delivery is.

When potential customers have abandoned their cart, we can send a little nudge to encourage them to finish and hit send.

But not if our customers opt out of their cookies.

So. Let’s say cookies are gone. Pretend that we’ve had the last of them and we’re not getting anymore.

What does that leave for digital marketers?

1. ACR technology

Stands for “automated content recognition,” and it’s what some people confuse for “ohm’gawd ‘they’re’ listening to me.” Not really. Not the way people mean when they say that: the ‘They’ are an ‘It,’ and it’s not listening like a human would. It’s listening to the digicodes around you. So if you’re near a radio, or you’re watching a show on Netflix, or using that Smart TV for which you capriciously agreed to the terms of service while plugging it into the wall the first time, ACR knows what you’re being exposed to. As a result, for example, if Marketer You determines through ACR that someone is bingeing 6+ hours of Ted Lasso, you know they would likely love to have food delivered. You can’t reach them through Apple TV, which doesn’t have ads, but you can determine that they’re watching—and send ads on their devices.

Heaven knows everybody is probably looking at their Apple (or whatever) devices while watching Apple (or whichever) TV.

What should you do, as a restaurant marketer? Talk to a professional media person and discuss: Hmmmm, what behaviors indicate that someone might be ready for your restaurant?

2. Geotargeting and foot traffic attribution

Notice how you almost never lose your phone the way you lose your keys? It’s always with you—and those satellites up there can report when you’re going into a specific business. With cookies, Marketer You can even determine if a particular number is walking into your restaurant after being exposed to messaging, reaching the conclusion that the message affected that person’s behavior; even without that luxury, it’s still possible to extrapolate behavior from groups—a person like the owner of this number was inclined to eat at your restaurant.

Guess what. It’s even possible to screen out the phones of employees (who show up every day at more regular intervals, and for longer, than customers do).

What should you do, as a restaurant marketer? Talk to a professional media person and discuss: If Marketer You knew that the people coming to your restaurant belonged to a specific demographic, would that change what Marketer You is in investing in? Would it confirm that your current efforts are working a lot or a little?

3. Geofencing and competitive conquesting

And since we know that a certain kind of person is going into that kind of place, as a similar business, we can send little ads to those people—right at a competitor’s doorstep. Competitive conquesting! Might or might not change someone’s behavior this time, but now we’ve identified an interested party so—eh, perhaps we might persuade them to show up at your doorstep next time.

Sorry X-Files-style conspiracists: yes, satellites are tracking everybody but it’s on behalf of marketers, not men in black.

What should you do, as a restaurant marketer? Talk to a professional media person and discuss: Who are the competitors you’d like to conquest, specifically? (Don’t say, “All of ’em.”)

4. Paid search results

Not a clever new technological wonder—more of a clever old technological wonder, and still an effective way to grab people at “the end of the marketing funnel” when they’re about to buy, buy, buy. No cookies required—we know they’re interested because they just searched for a term that relates to you. Tell them your pizza is hot-slash-ready. Tell them your burger is close, so close, so very close. Tell them whatever you think will grab their attention before they start scrolling through the organic search results.

What should you do, as a restaurant marketer? Talk to a professional media person and discuss: Refine the paid searches you’re already doing. Can you make the message that appears even more urgent, even more relevant? Try an A/B test. Which works best?

It’s so hard (so hard) not to make actual-cookies jokes here, some kind of reference to a nearly empty cookie jar—and once that jar is empty (see, I’m caving in and having another cookie joke), well, people may actually come to miss having nuanced and precisely targeted messages in their lives and social feeds. Who knows what the cookie-starved public will agree to then? Will they welcome some kind of middle-ground solution? Normal Me isn’t so sure; Marketer Me is optimistic.

Charlie Hopper, Principal, Writer at Y&L

Over the past 30-something years, Charlie’s played many roles at Y&L, including writer, principal, general enthusiast and creative director on Steak ’n Shake during its heyday at the agency. He is also the author of Selling Eating: Restaurant Marketing Beyond the Word “Delicious.”