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How To Prepare For A Cookieless World

newsNovember 16, 2021

Get ready for The Cookieless World

Download the full dentsu report to focus on what you should and need to know today to prepare for 2023

By: Caroline Fülep, Associate Director, Paid Search, iProspect


What is happening

For many years, ‘big data’ in marketing has been ripe for the taking. Tech and ad platforms approached tracking people’s personal data as an implicit and default choice. For businesses that grew in the digital space over the past years, it meant unlimited access to valuable data that enabled them to reach people who were most likely to buy their products or services. At any time. Wherever they were online.

However, as consumers started to worry about the data companies were collecting on us, we started taking steps to reduce, or at least select, the personal data to be shared online. This shift in consumer behavior has started a revolution in the digital marketing industry.

User consent is now at the core of privacy regulations across the globe – GDPR in Europe, LGPD in Brazil, CCPA in California, APPI in Japan, among many others. Today, one out of two people (52%)1 believe that it is essential that organizations gain active consent to use their personal data to serve them the most relevant online ads.

In addition to legal regulations, limitations on tracking technology have increased exponentially since 2017 when Apple introduced its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) to limit cross-site tracking and conversion measurement. This move by Apple – who had little to lose in the advertising revenue world – led to a slew of tech and ad platforms following suit. Each platform likely wanting to show off their user privacy focus similar to Apple. Perhaps most notable alongside Apple’s iOS 14 updates, were Google’s commitment to ending third-party cookies by 2022/2023, and the rise of other types of tracking prevention. This will impact brands and advertisers across different dimensions.

Why we need to care

These dramatic changes in the industry will lead to fewer opportunities for ad targeting and personalization, especially for acquisition-focused campaigns. It will be important for brands to adjust strategies, by prioritizing those that interact with the ads and inviting them to take the next step (and share first-party data like email addresses to be used for future targeting and personalization). It will also be imperative to continue investing in creativity that will catch user attention.

It is imperative that brands understand these changes will also affect marketing measurement and KPIs. For example, without third-party cookies, most display and programmatic view-through conversion data will disappear, but consumers will not have simply stopped converting after seeing banner ads.

Most brands leverage tactics such as retargeting user profiles based on interactions (e.g. site visit, click on the banner, abandoned cart) and extend their audiences through modeling, which will be impacted with the end of third-party cookies in 2023.

Although the deprecation of third-party cookies undeniably disrupts how brands engage with audiences online, alternatives continue to emerge. With no single silver bullet solution but many workflows and new concepts arising, the digital world is racing to find helpful and privacy-first options for targeting and measurement.

How to prepare

Advertisers must look to more durable methods to continue activating audiences and measuring the impact of digital programs in the future. Some alternative routes are already known, such as the importance of nurturing first-party data sources. Others are still in development, such as Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoCs) and unique ID solutions from The Trade Desk and Liveramp, each with different potentials for scale, levels of investment needed, and infrastructure requirements.

For most brands, business continuation and growth are not likely to come from a single alternative, but from a blend of alternatives, which are unique to needs. A one size fits all mothership will no longer be achievable, and instead rigorous test & learn options will help prove out performance and tactics. It will likely be based on a combination of:

  •  First-party data relationships including learning how to motivate users to share their personal or CRM/email data.
  •  Partnerships with platforms and walled gardens using unique and shared identity solutions to identify users in different environments.
  •  Non-audience-based targeting solutions such as contextual targeting; focused on the type of content people consume rather than a specific audience type.
  • Hybrid measurement models including in-platform attribution, incrementality testing and fast-paced media mix modeling.

Dentsu’s definitive guide for global marketers, The Cookieless World, cuts through the ambient noise to help focus on what you should know today and investigate tomorrow to be ready in 2023 when the world becomes cookieless.