On January 14, Google sent shockwaves throughout the digital advertising industry when it announced that it would be phasing out support for third-party cookies within the next two years.
Considering that third-party cookies have been central to the digital advertising ecosystem for the past decades, this announcement was certainly going to dramatically impact many marketers.
While this announcement was not surprising per se – after all, both Mozilla and Apple had already made similar plans for Firefox and Safari, respectively – it is likely to be far reaching. Chrome is by far the most popular Web browser in the world, and many businesses have built themselves up on the back of cookies.
But, this news should be greeted with a collective shrug. Not only is it not surprising, but I don’t think marketers should have been so dependent on third-party cookies anyway.
In my mind, there are three major faults with cookie-based data collection.
First and foremost, cookies themselves are not a good source of knowledge. Not only were they collecting a limited amount of knowledge, but their expiration dates make them useless, especially for developing quality, long-term personas.
Cookies are largely being phased out on the browser side for privacy reasons, and this is a hugely important point that can’t be overstated.
Cookie-enabled practices like retargeting have long been derided by consumers, and legal frameworks like GDPR and CCPA are finally catching up to the digital marketing industry in terms of data collection.
All of us need to be thinking about the end user and respecting their privacy at every step of the way. Cookies, especially the third-party cookies, simply are not designed to respect user privacy and user needs.
And, perhaps most notably, I don’t think cookies are able to capture the most important actions and parts of someone’s day. Increasingly, mobile and apps are overtaking desktops and browsers.
As eMarketer has noted, Americans spend more time with their mobile devices than they do watching television now, and around 90% of all time spent on mobile is devoted to apps.
Cookies, critically, are capturing none of this information. The dominance of apps has long been established across Asia, and it’s just finally being fully acknowledged here in the U.S.
So if third-party cookies are not your best bet, what is? How can digital marketers understand, identify, engage and acquire their customers this year and beyond?
For starters, mobile has to be the central area of focus. As time on mobile explodes, it behooves marketers to devote more of their budgets towards these channels. Here, device IDs and SDK data can provide marketers with the basic information they need to run successful in-app advertising campaigns.
Beyond that, first-party data has to be prioritized over third-party data sources, although marketers should have been moving in this direction regardless of Google’s moves around cookies. With new privacy initiatives both recently arriving and with more on the horizon, marketers need to protect themselves.
With first-party data powering campaigns, brands don’t need to worry about where the data came from and whether it was collected in a privacy-focused and compliant manner. It is worthwhile to note that Google’s announcement doesn’t preclude first-party cookies, just third-party ones.
What does this mean from a partner perspective? How should marketers determine who they should be working with in 2020?
This goes without saying, but any vendor that is still solely or mostly reliant on third-party cookies to help its clients see results is not worth working with, at least on anything beyond a very short-term basis. The industry is moving away from this, and you need to be too.
And, be sure you’re working with someone who can supplement your own data and enrich it with high quality sources of knowledge. While the walled gardens are certainly a rich source of data, they offer little in return to you as far as knowledge and data enrichment is concerned.
When seeking out a data partner, though, make sure their information is collected in a compliant and privacy-minded manner, and make sure it’s valuable. First-party telco data, especially its location signals, are the holy grail in this realm.
A partner with a focus on apps is beneficial, but not necessary. I don’t know if mobile apps will be the dominant media by 2030, but they will be how most of us spend our time for the foreseeable future.
I don’t want to paint too rosy of a picture of mobile apps, as it’s not as though there aren’t issues outside of browsers and cookies.
For starters, the device IDs that are central to a lot of mobile marketing now are controlled by the same companies that have held so much sway in regards to cookies: namely Apple and Google. Who’s to say when they will decide that device ID data sharing needs to be curtailed?
There are also severe challenges around data collection and identity in new and emerging channels like connected TV, digital out of home and audio.
There are numerous consortiums out there trying to develop identity and measurement solutions for cross-device marketing, but I think it will be a while longer until a solution that works for all stakeholders will emerge.
Nevertheless, despite these challenges, there’s no reason to believe that apps (plus strong data partners) are not far preferable to browsers and third-party cookies.
There are simply better ways for marketers to reach their consumers. Cookies may be perfect for Cookie Monster, but not for marketers.
Abhay Singhal is CEO of InMobi Marketing Cloud. He is a experienced co-founder with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. Abhay is skilled in Mobile Advertising, Advertising Sales, Advertising, Sales, and Business Development.
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