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Farewell Cookies: Where will marketing go from here?

The marketing industry is at a critical juncture. With the potential implications of Google setting a hard deadline to end third-party cookies and regulators bearing down on questionable marketing practices, the decisions we make in the coming months will be significant for the years to come.

So, what are the options for marketers going forward and how are they adjusting to this new privacy-centric norm?

 

Where are we now?
From our conversations with marketing and AdTech professionals, across a range of industries, the default position appears to be ‘wait and see…oh, and keep your fingers crossed’.

Google has not made clear how its privacy sandbox will work. There’s a hope among advertisers it will be fairly flexible. That, with access to a large portion of browsers, marketers will be given the access they need, with limited changes to process.

But that is very hopeful. Google’s decision to engage the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in developing alternative solutions, rather than advertising groups, suggests we’ll have little input in the company’s outputs, whatever they be.

Separately to Google, there is reason to be hopeful. The company’s announcement on the 15th January, forcibly jolted the advertisers around the world into a state of action. Right now, the entire AdTech industry is looking for a workaround. Cookies themselves were highjacked; they were not devised with advertising in mind, and it’s quite possible that someone will come up with another element of the on-line ecosystem which can be highjacked in a similar way, such as those mentioned later in this article.  

There are two problems with this approach:

However Google’s sand box works, we can be certain that the biggest benefactor will be Google and that it will be at the expense (possibly literally) of marketers The second option is just kicking the can down the road. If Google are intent on blocking tracking through Chrome, then it’s just a matter of time before the next loophole gets closed. 

 

What can we expect in the short-term?
Right now, the focus for most seems set on finding a workable alternative to cookies, that minimises disruption and enables the industry to carry on exploiting consumer data (perhaps to a lesser extent) as before. While it may not be right, it’s perfectly understandable. People are often resistant to change and, as the continued disregard for GDPR has shown, moving towards more privacy conscious practices requires significant change.

Some of the likely short-term ‘fixes’ the market will consider include:

Device Attribute Collation (kicking the can down the road sustainably)

Also known as Device Fingerprinting, Device Attribute Collation (DAC) is the most obvious alternative. While not as accurate as cookies, by identifying specific traits, such as the web browser being used, the device’s IP address, etc, it can provide marketers with a reliable insight into consumer behaviour. This may offer a helpful transition away from the current model, while the industry matures towards a more sustainable, customer-centric model.

Cookie-free Ad-networks
We’ll see the rise of cookie free ad-networks which use server-side tracking to deliver programmatic audiences. Yes, these do exist!

The challenge for both these approaches is sustainability. Yes, there needs to be a commonality with the way programmatic works now, but we mustn’t forget that a significant factor in the loss of cookies was public opinion. Also, bear in mind the ICO will be quick to ensure any new practices are compliant before they gain a life of their own. If they are to have any sort of life-span, stringent policies and policing will be critical. If history has thought us anything, it’s that this is unlikely, and sooner or later they’ll be shutdown.

Contextual advertising
With options drying up, marketers will likely turn to contextual advertising. Users will be more frequently targeted based on on-site browsing behaviour rather than because they’ve been identified as part of a brands audience. Walled gardens, like Facebook and Amazon, will become a much more important part of the eco-system. In the short-term, at-least, this will be the only route to identifying and tracking an audience without changing current practices. Going forward we’ll potentially see larger brands creating their own walled gardens.

 

What about the long-term?
The writing’s been on the wall for a long time now, we’ve just not been reading it. To ensure compliance and build a long-term, sustainable solution transparency and value must take centre stage.

First party data
Ultimately, the future of data-driven marketing lies in first-party data. Gathering first-party data is an obvious solution, both in terms of compliance and in response to a decrease in third-party data, as result of GDPR and cookie blocking. Marketing to consumers who have actively opted-in to your communications brings with it the added opportunity to build a more engaged, value-driven relationship with an audience.

The way that this is likely to manifest is in two forms.

• Publishers will be much more interested in pushing users towards registering. It’s likely that many sites will force registration before offering the more valuable areas of content.

• We’ll see brands generating content which gives users a reason to register by delivering more engaging formats like branded content and video .

One of the big arguments against first-party data is its limited scalability. While it’s unlikely any brand, other than Facebook, will be able to build a first-party database of billions of users, with the right platform and creative, scale is possible and we should be speaking in terms of millions, not thousands.

Equally, many people believe that first-party data will not generate the same type of rich data which is currently available. In reality it’s possible to generate equally rich data at both a tactical and strategic level. Providing straightforward permissioning across multiple third-party data sources. Typically, mymyne is able to provide over 300 variables for each opted in audience member. 

 

Change for the better
Despite all the unknowns, there is no doubt that change is coming. It’s up to us, as an industry, to ensure it is for the better. This will require:

A change in the way we measure performance
With the loss of cookies, attribution will be much more difficult. This combined with the increased importance of first-party data means that the way value is assessed needs to change. Metrics such as engagement, based both on numbers registered and on-site/in app behaviour will become more important. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it will drive brands to look at longer-term consumer relationships that short-term clicks.

Greater transparency and recognition of the value of an individual user’s data.
Public opinion, legislation and Google are impossible to ignore it’s clear that audiences require greater transparency and control over how their data is used. As a result, we’ll see new standards in the way data use is permissioned. Potentially this could become part the values which brands uphold in the same way as sustainability and fair trade.

Ultimately, now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand. Whether we like it or not, marketing and advertising are going to have to grow up very fast to prove they still have value in a post-cookie world.

 

Rich data straight into the hands of marketers
At mymyne, we’ve developed a platform that allows you to scale your first-party data collection and engagement quickly and reliably, while remaining compliant with all aspects of GDPR.

Un-like other first-party audience creation tools our focus is on the data. We link your first-party audience to over 20 GDPR compliant third-party sources. This provides access to 300+ demographic and psychographic variables.

Data generated by your first-party campaign is instantly accessible to marketers via our online dashboard.