50,000 marketing leaders from around the globe recently converged at DMexco in Cologne, Germany to discuss the future of digital marketing. Salesforce was a part of a group of thought leaders who gathered to answer the question: "What Is People-Based Marketing And How Will It Revolutionize Advertising?"The panel included Liam Doyle (VP of Advertising Products, Salesforce), Jason Kelly (President, LiveIntent), Sirick Wohlers (Head of Marketing Germany, Audibene), Tim Lundberg (Channel Director, reed.co.uk), and Jon Pipas (Digital Marketing Manager, Capital One).

The big take-away of the session? First-party data is the way forward for digital advertising today. If you're not onboard, you're already behind. Since last year at DMExco, the panelists agreed that as the state of the industry has matured, it's become much easier to use customer data to do advertising.

Tim Lundberg (of Reed.co.uk) and Jon Pipas (of Capital One) each shared perspectives on how they undertook the business transformation.

Tim began by explaining that his role has transitioned from marketing to owning a P&L as a part of a broader transformation to form a complete view of the customer and their needs across paid, CRM, online (digital marketing), and social channels. However, this organizational change has been a big challenge for Reed, because it takes a multifunctional team all working together to invest in a customer over time, and to treat customer data as a key asset. The takeaway? Data is not just a commodity but something that helps build sustained relationships with customers.

Jon said that as Capital One is a "data company that happened to find an opportunity in consumer credit cards" they had the availability and infrastructure to use CRM data for advertising. His big goal is to drive increased online advertising efficiency by bringing marketing and advertising channels together. In order to do that, he is working to layer platform and network data on top of CRM data to expand targeting and build lookalikes. This is essential because the credit card is a commodity; to stand out, Capital One must use multiple touch points to build a relationship with its customers.

This conversation caused the moderator to ask Liam, "Does this mean the cookie is dead?"He responded, "No, the cookie is not dead; advertisers have loaded so much onto the cookie and made it too central to their business. Instead, with real customer IDs Salesforce is working to balance that so the cookie doesn't die but instead becomes one of the many pieces of data we use." The cookie will still be used in the future; however it will not be the primary way advertising revenue is transacted.

The discussion of cookies raised the question, "Is email the correct unique identifier today?" Liam and Jon both responded that it was. They explained that everyone not only still spend lots of time in email, on both desktops and mobile devices, they use their email addresses as logins across the web. It's the identifier for everything from Reed's job boards to Capital One's payment portal to Facebook.

The conversation also tackled the wider topic of the customer journey and how identity-based advertising needs to fit more tightly into everything marketers do around delivering a consistent and connected customer journey. Sirick Wohlers (Head of Marketing Germany, Audibene) had some fascinating insights into their very long customer journey. Because people take a long time to decide to buy a hearing aid, their journey from first moment of awareness to purchase can last a full seven years! Despite this, it is still critical for them to think about a connected, multichannel customer journey, which integrates digital advertising, in order to drive awareness and consideration for the individual.

A final takeaway from the fantastic panel session: Now is the time for marketers to take action to combine their first party data and digital advertising. The technology is there. The data is there. The vision for a more targeted, personalized and optimized advertising experience is there. Customers expect it. The marketers that jump in and take advantage of the opportunity will win.

Coming to Dreamforce and want to learn more about CRM-powered advertising? Use the Dreamforce Trail Map for Marketing - Advertising edition to build your four perfect days.