Commentary

Got Milk? You May Need It To Dunk Your Old Cookies

It’s hard not to use overwrought metaphors when writing stories blog posts about cookies, but this one may be especially crumby. That’s because much of the programmatic marketplace -- at least in the way we think about it today -- depends on those little data tracking crumbs, which enable people and machines to target (or retarget) users with speed and relative precision. So what happens if, as Mozilla is suggesting, cookies actually crumble. According to someone whose views I have profound respect for -- Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser -- not much. In a note sent to Wall Street investors this morning, Wieser explains that even if Mozilla should go ahead with its plan to block third-party cookies on its popular Firefox browser, it would have a relatively small impact on the overall display advertising marketplace, because it would take a while for many of the browser’s users to upgrade to the new version, and because Firefox is still a minority share of the browser marketplace.
 
And while there are other organic threats to the prevalence of cookies (mobile and Apple’s Safari browser), Wieser believes they have become too ingrained in the lives of marketers and consumers to simply crumble away.
 
“The most important reason why we expect that cookies will persist in some form is that they are what allows Web advertising to be so efficient, as a successful campaign can be assessed on the basis of spending less to accomplish more,” Wieser wrote, adding, “This makes for a real incentive to find workarounds to the potential elimination of cookies as we know them today. Presented with the alternative of buying less inventory for more money? While this would be helpful to today’s premium publishers, we think most buyers would rather look for data-driven approaches using cookies, or whatever evolves from them in the years ahead.”
 
While Wieser predicts some marketers and agencies will adopt alternative methods of targeting online users -- mainly regressing to reach and frequency planning utilizing Nielsen’s online ratings or some other alternative -- he believes the industry will simply come up with some new version of the cookie. That makes sense, and is especially apt when you think about it, because it’s sort of what the mobile and out-of-home industries are working on right now: workarounds. Whether they are “fingerprinting,” or “hashing” or some other equally questionable metaphor, I’m with Wieser and think we’ll continue using cookies for some time to come. They may be Hyrdox instead of Oreos, but they’ll be cookies nonetheless.

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