A World Without Cookies: Post-Apocalypse Or Better Marketing?

In the 1980s, the TV movie “The Day After” provided a glimpse of the world in the wake of a potential nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the U.S.  The movie’s view of a post-apocalyptic world scared me as a child, since at the time the potential for the scenario to occur was all too real.

Lately, you can hear tinges of a similar, over-exaggerated fear coming from online marketers as they describe a future without cookies.

Mobile Internet consumption and tighter regulations are making the cookie less important, but marketers shouldn’t fear. The post-cookie world isn’t post-apocalyptic. Instead, it’s downright positive.

Losing the Cookie

Since the early days of the Internet’s inception, the cookie has given marketers data for targeting and anonymous tracking, becoming a trusted piece of the marketing process. Yet marketers have been stuck in the cookie paradigm for too long. Mobile, deterministic cross-device data, and various probabilistic techniques will bridge the gap left by the retreating cookie, and marketers will have access to location, time, content, and device ID when targeting their campaigns.



Of these data sources, location data is vitally important, as it’s a big differentiating factor between desktop and mobile platforms. After all, the mobile channel is called “mobile” for a reason. This location information provides context that simply isn’t available in the traditional desktop cookie environment.

The Strengths of Mobile Data

There are several strengths to using mobile data, chief among them being precision. Mobile Device IDs (IDFA, AdID, Android ID, etc.) are all more accurate, and static, than the cookie ever was. This presents more consistency, a better ability to target and clearer attribution opportunities.

Mobile data also presents new creative targeting capabilities that the cookie doesn’t have, including geo or hyper-local targeting based on an event trigger (for example, a sporting event combined with dayparting). While probabilistic targeting is not perfect, marketers need to get used to this new concept and level of accuracy within the new media and consumer landscape.

Another key point will be the prioritization of the in-app environment over the mobile Web. The main difference between in-app data and the browser is the infrastructure present. There is no persistent identifier on the mobile web, prohibiting marketers from learning about previous browsing activities. The app environment is unique in that it represents a walled garden that relies on consumer trust and opt-in, which results in a great deal of information passing back and forth. Still, there will be mobile Web solutions, as companies like Google may be able to tap a short browser history when users are signed in.

Drawbacks and Downsides to Mobile Data

The downside to this new set of data is fatigue. Marketers have always dealt with exponentially growing sets of data, growth that is exaggerated with the onslaught of device data.

Marketers must look at the overwhelming amount of data created by the mobile environment and keep in mind what’s “clean” as opposed to “dirty” data. They must understand which data points are immediately usable and whether or not using them benefits the consumer. Marketers should listen to and store all the data signals that have been consented to be shared, but only spend time analyzing the data points that are scalable or have well-defined attributes. It’s also worth noting here that much of the data we’re talking about doesn’t touch PII the same way the cookie does, making it safer from a privacy standpoint.

Marketers should also keep an open approach on working with this data and avoid too narrow a focus on use cases. The market is still in the education phase, learning to look beyond the initial reaction. Getting past this point will open up enormous opportunities.

1 comment about "A World Without Cookies: Post-Apocalypse Or Better Marketing? ".
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  1. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, January 13, 2015 at 12:32 p.m.

    Old and bad habits are hard to lose. Cookie is old and physical mobile device tracking is bad. The question is what is really next?

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