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News Plus 9 Dec 2021 - 3 min read

Cookie crunch: CommBank connects to Google stack in first party data personalisation push; Pega power rises

By Brendan Coyne - Editor
Vanessa Sanford, Commbank and Gabriela Darley, Pega

Moving the first party needle: Vanessa Sanford (right), Commbank and Gabriela Darley, Pega

CommBank has shifted deeper into the Google stack, at the expense of the likes of Adobe. Now it has plugged in first party data directly via AI-powered decisioning engine Pega, which connects via API to Google. That means it can avoid pushing irrelevant ads to people, or pushing them products that are unsuitable – without using cookies. GM, Media, Marketing Operations and Technology, Vanessa Sanford, thinks it will move the needle. Meanwhile, Pega is stepping up its pursuits at the top end of town.

What you need to know:

  • CommBank has now connected first party data into Google stack via Pega's AI engine.
  • That means it can start doing the same personalisation and smarter targeting it does within the CBA app outside of the bank's four walls.
  • Meanwhile Pega is stepping up its wooing of local brands at the top end of town.

[Data] Nirvana is to have third party, first party and zero party data connections all running through a CDP and then getting consent from customers to enable us to build out zero party information.

Vanessa Sanford, GM, Media, Marketing Operations and Technology, CommBank

Limiting factor

CommBank took much of its digital, social and SEM media buying in-house four years ago in order to leverage its first party data and keep it secure. It then connected up Pega, an AI-driven decisioning engine now central to the bank’s media, marketing and CX.

It serves as a ‘next best conversation engine’ and was originally connected to media through Adobe’s Audience Manager platform to enable cookie-based matching while leveraging CBA’s first party data.

But cookie depreciation driven by Apple and Google saw the cookie-based audience match rates start to decline. Meanwhile, CommBank found its ad server was no longer fit for purpose. After reviewing tech options, it opted to go with Google.

Whereas it uses Adobe and Pega in combination within CommBank’s owned ecosystem, the bank a few weeks ago connected Pega through Google to the external ad world.

The aim is to harness its first party data to deliver ‘next best offer’ ads that drive better bang for buck while eliminating wastage, Vanessa Sanford, GM, Media, Marketing Operations and Technology told Mi3.

Globally Ford is using the same approach, but connecting Pega to Google in that way makes CommBank the first in Australia to do so.

It means, for example, that CommBank can now target the right customers with the right product messaging, i.e. targeting customers that are eligible for products and suppressing ads to those who are ineligible or who already have that particular product – without using cookies.

"We’ll be using it for targeting, cross-selling and suppression," said Sanford.

The bank already takes that approach within its own digital walls – when people are logged into NetBank or within the CommBank app.

Sanford thinks for brands to be “successful in the long-term,” they will need a customer data platform, or CDP, linked externally via API in that manner if they want to market and advertise to known and unknown audiences with intelligent next best offers and suppression of unsuitable offers. “That is our long-term strategy,” said Sanford, who thinks it will result in significant efficiencies and ROI gains.

Data Nirvana

“Nirvana,” said Sanford, “is to have third party, first party and zero party data connections all running through a CDP and then getting consent from customers to enable us to build out zero party information.”

Zero party data – also known as explicit data – is data consumers willingly share with a brand, such as their context or preferences. For example, if CommBank knows a consumer is environmentally conscious it can offer them a green home loan and push them comms around Amber Energy, which CommBank took a stake in earlier this year and which touts cheaper energy bills based on cutting prices when there is more renewable energy generation on the power system.

Partnering and investing in businesses across verticals – such as Amber, retail platform Little Birdie, home services and property management firms as being scaled by CommBank’s X15 Ventures unit – is therefore a major plank of CommBank’s data and broader growth strategy.

Traditionally, [brands] have really been focused on utilising DMPs and DSPs to engage customers across [social and digital] platforms. But the ability to connect directly is changing the landscape.

Gabriela Darley, 1:1 customer engagement executive, Pega Systems

Pega push

CommBank’s Chief Analytics Officer Andrew McMullan last year told Mi3 CommBank's AI-powered customer engagement engine has transformed the way the bank is set up and how it interacts with customers, delivering personalisation at scale. 

Asked to rate the go-to big CRM and CX engines that plug into Commbank’s systems, McMullan instead talked about the quality, compute power and intelligence provided by Pega and H2o.ai that underpin its bespoke system.

Now Pega is stepping up its growth push, touting 'next best action' capability to the broader market.

Gabriela Darley, 1:1 customer engagement executive at Pega, told Mi3 that brands aiming to deliver personalisation at scale need to connect up their first party data to publishers and platforms.

“If you look at organisations that have done one-to-one engagement really well, they’ve done that across inbound and outbound channels [e.g. call centres and email marketing]. They’ve managed to do that effectively, but oftentimes they haven’t really integrated the paid channels ... So leveraging first party data for advertising, that is an area where organisations need to prioritise their investment.” said Darley.

“Traditionally, [brands] have really been focused on utilising DMPs and DSPs to engage customers across [social and digital] platforms. But the ability to connect directly is changing the landscape."

This article is adapted from Mi3's Post-Cookies, Post-Privacy market report. Download it here.

Mi3 Special Report: Australia Post-Cookies, Post-Privacy

  • How brands including ANZ, CommBank, Adore Beauty, Little Birdie, Menulog and Westpac are racing for new privacy-compliant ways to market to customers as platform and regulatory changes bite.
  • Report covers all of Australia‘s major publishers, their strategies.
  • All major alternative IDs covered.
  • Plus marketing consultancies, tech provider and agency insights.
  • Independent Mi3 report, based on 35-plus interviews, supported by MiQ and Resolution Digital.

How brands including CommBank, Adore Beauty, Little Birdie, Menulog and more are racing for new privacy-compliant ways to market to customers as platform and regulatory changes bite.

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