Commentary

Grappling With The Cookieless Future

As we're all too well aware, Chrome, Firefox and other major browsers will cease supporting third-party cookies by the end of 2021. With a cookieless future looming, how can advertisers effectively reach audiences while aligning their practices to the new landscape?

Proposed solutions abound, running the gamut from fundamental overhaul to an armada of second-party proxies. While pieces of each approach deliver value, there are simply too many competing options.

One insight helps a comprehensive strategy take shape: Advertisers should change the how of media targeting, rather than the what or who.

The How of Media Targeting

Single sign-on (SSO) consent presents perhaps the most straightforward opportunity. With SSO, users opt to receive communications from multiple media channels while identifying themselves with persistent signatures, such as a Facebook profile or Gmail account.

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By tracking the behavior of the signature, rather than the user, advertisers can effectively target known attributes without ever receiving unique identity credentials.

Decentralized identifiers (DIDs) layer this anonymity one step further, granting users the ability to prove that their information is verified and communicated peer-to-peer, without any third-party observation. The IOTA Foundation leads the charge in DIDs via ongoing development of its Tangle Network, a bleeding-edge competitor to blockchain technologies.

To put these methods of data collection to best use, advertisers also must change how they apply information.

A shift to first-party data would enable clients to engage audience segments with robust granularity. Predictive analytics and machine learning, currently leveraged to create consumer lookalikes, could be expanded to lead scoring, lifetime value analysis, and customer journey modeling that understands audience needs.

As marketing transitions, major partners offer the support of compliant alternatives to third-party cookie tracking. Unified ID, a public standard developed by The Trade Desk and Nielsen, stands out with its hashed, open-source connection to an SSO that shields access to the root identity. Private complements include Apple’s Storage Access API and Google’s Privacy Sandbox. 

What Are the Next Steps?

First-party data systems and machine-learning solutions involve significant costs. In a recent Winterberry poll, over 60% of data professionals pinpointed investment as their top response to the cookieless future. Before planning expenditures, advertisers should dig into their existing first-party capabilities, paying particular attention to data quality and gaps in engagement.

Simultaneously, marketers should query partners to understand emerging targeting tools.

Already, media outlets are meeting industry needs with commercial technologies, in some instances furnishing solutions that surpass third-party cookies. It is incumbent on all agencies and analytics firms to evaluate these with respect to a holistic ROI.

It will be hard, expensive work. But correctly executed, it will make the next chapter in digital marketing and communications even more fruitful than the last.

1 comment about "Grappling With The Cookieless Future".
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  1. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, June 11, 2021 at 4:34 a.m.

    Christian, won't the use of such alternatives for ad targeting still result in consumers still having the feeling they are being "tracked," even though they've opted for do not track on the big digital plaforms?   Your thoughts?

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