In a world where most of the online marketing has been using 3rd party cookies for targeting advertising for the last two decades the disruption of the 3rd party cookie will have real impact on advertising. Things that has been an obvious part of the marketing such as re-targeting will have some serious limitations once the blocked 3rd party cookies reaches a critical level. 

Apple has implemented their restrictions already, Google who’s business is advertising has been a bit more careful and will ease in their changes rather than full lock-down.

But what does that mean for the consumers?

Well the obvious “benefit” is that those pair of sneakers that you had a look at will no longer stalk you wherever you go. On the other hand you will not be able to get any targeted discounts either… pros & cons. 

Another great thing is that as a consumer you are less likely to get relevant recommendations of editorial content, hopefully breaking you out of whatever “bubble” you are in. This will make you less prone to just being exposed to things that are relevant to you, and hopefully makes it possible to get new influences and perspectives on life and the world we live in. The downside will be that you get less relevant recommendations.

But the obvious advantage is less tracking, better privacy and higher integrity levels. Hopefully.

The Advertisers – meet Armageddon

What this will mean for sure is that the possibility to target relevant behaviours and interests across websites and networks will significantly decrease, at least for behaviour based on 3rd party data.

And this is where the publishers start jumping with joy! No more 3rd party data, no more value increase on ads from assets we don’t have or control! I personally stem from the publishing world and data has been both the Holy Grail and the Armageddon to publishers. They have tried to ignore data as well as gone full force into building their own DMPs. But when the sales force isn’t equipped to add data to the business, and doesn’t know how to leverage data into better business and sell the added value, most approaches fail to deliver the cost of adding data to the business model, for publishers ▲

 ▶︎ In a post cookie world many predict that this will be an opportunity for publishers to leverage their 1st party data instead. And this will be the magic bullet, as well as deliver the best value to their customers. But this is where a fragmented programmatic universe will wreak havoc on those hopes: the advertisers want simplicity, quality and results.

A world of only 1st party data will mean that every network or publisher will have their own set of data, own definitions and of varying quality. A “Sports-interested” will mean one thing for one publisher and something else for another. Meaning that the quality and results will vary depending who you buy from, and transparency has never been a strong side with publishers in general. Now, you could argue that the same goes for 3rd party audience providers in the DSPs, and yes it is the same, but at least you are able to leverage the same audience in most networks, making the sites comparable based on the underlying data. And being able to get one audience in one place and not in another place will for sure not make advertising easier. And it will also make follow-up, reporting and acquisition costs harder to account for, and will muddy the digital ROI-waters further.

I’m not saying we should hold on to the cookie, but I think that advertisers will face new challenges and the publishers aren’t necessarily those best equipped to solve them. Mostly because they see every other publisher as the biggest competitor, and working together with the competition just isn’t their game.

So, back to the issue at hand

What do we do without the cookies to target our advertising? Well, I agree with most other experts on the subject – 1st party data is King. But I would say that it is the Advertisers 1st party data that will leverage their advertising going forward. When data is scattered across publishers, available in some places and not available in other, this is where you need to look at your most valuable data – your customer data and use this to be a better customer to the media agencies and publishers. By knowing your customer you will be better at evaluating if a provider delivers the right customers and results. If you judge you marketing based on your own data, based on an asset that you control, then it doesn’t matter what the provider calls the audience or the offer, you will be able to know what they actually deliver to you. And since you are the buyer, you are actually the one best equipped to demand quality control and transparency from the sellers.

Cookie-less, ID-free & Cookie free

So, back to the starting point of this discussion, what does it mean? Well cookies are a technology, nothing more. And the problem is how it has been used to track users online. This was a concern raised already when the technology was created in the nineties, more than two decades ago, but those concerns were disregarded in the light of possible monetisation on the technology. And what we can learn from this is that it isn’t until public outcry gets loud enough that things change, and that goes for most things.

Cookies will die, get blocked or change. Other technologies will replace them. They will continue to work in some aspects and they will be limited in others. Hopefully we will come out on the other side with a more transparent way of advertising online, in an integrity mindful way that respects the privacy of the consumers and online users.

This is the business we at Brain are in: putting the knowledge in the hands of the advertisers so that they can make better informed decisions, increase growth and learn from their marketing – in-house. And we already use non-tracking technologies for targeting marketing with proven results.

And if there is one thing we can be sure of: technology will change again, and again, and again.

Martin Bergqvist, CEO
Digital Brain Nordic