Published on 
October 28, 2021

What we learned about the cookie-less revolution this month - October 2021

A new era is dawning for the web, and it's one where the all-encompassing cookies used by web browsers to track users around the internet are about to get a major kick in the teeth. Even though Google has pushed back its own deadline for stamping out third-party cookies from 2022 to 2023, the end is on the horizon. 


The discussion around how the end of cookies will impact digital marketing is developing all the time. Now is a good time to start thinking about the implications of the removal of cookies, and how these developments will affect your brand. Here are some highlights on how the conversion evolved this month, aggregated by the ThoughtLeaders platform. 


Sponsored by Salesforce 


AdAge held a live stream on YouTube discussing How Salesforce and WPP are helping brands confront the cookie-less future:



In the video they discuss “how the global powerhouses are working together to help brands balance the trust and privacy expectations of their customers with the challenges of the cookie-less future.” It’s interesting that Salesforce not only took part in and also sponsored this conversation. The company is keen to promote themselves as a key solution in the post-cookie future, as Marty Kihn explained: 


“The Salesforce CDP is built to kind of address this… it's around customer and prospect data. It's data you collect in a consented way providing value with customers and prospects, and on top of that you can do really good machine learning in AI and that kind of the nexus of data and the database itself and creativity in addition to kind of augmentations to human creativity coming by machines, that's where all the exciting work I think in marketing and advertising is is happening now and going forward.”


DoorDash takes advertising into its own hands


Earlier this month, the food delivery service has introduced advertising capabilities for restaurateurs directly inside the app, allowing them to pay to increase their visibility on the platform. Uber Eats offers something similar on their app, and we might start seeing a number of companies leaning into these “internal” advertising models in response to the looming decline of cookies. As explained in Digiday:


Ashley Karim-Kincey, VPof Media at Dagger Agency, added that as first-party data becomes increasingly important, thanks to the decay of third-party cookies, retailers like DoorDash, with 20 million monthly active users, have an advantage in the retail media space.
“Advertisers can deliver smarter and more engaging content with dynamic ads and personalized experiences,” she said in an email. “DoorDash certainly won’t be the last brand to lean into this advertising space as a platform.”


A darker view of the digital landscape


In an edition of his No Mercy, No Malice newsletter titled Carcinogens on October 8, 2021, Scott Galloway lays into the fraud that is endemic in the current digital ad model.

A study by MIT professor Catherine Tucker found that even targeting something as basic as gender was unsuccessful more than half the time (i.e., it was worse than random). A Nielsen analysis of a household-income-adjusted ad campaign found that only 25% of its ads were reaching the right households. As much as 65% of location-targeted ad spend is wasted. Plaintiffs in a class-action suit against Facebook have alleged its targeting algorithm’s "accuracy" was between 9% and 41%, and quoted internal Facebook emails describing the company’s targeting as "crap" and "abysmal."
And the technology that enables even this lousy tracking, the digital cookie, is on the way out. Cookies are short pieces of code websites leave behind on your computer so they can follow you across the Internet. But one adtech firm found that 64% of its tracking cookies are either blocked or deleted by web browsers. Apple recently updated iOS to require would-be ad trackers to obtain a user’s position before dropping a cookie. Google’s Chrome (which commands 60% of the browser market) will block third-party cookies altogether by 2023. Although that cloud has a dark lining: Google is replacing cookies with its own proprietary system that will centralize ad tracking under its exclusive control. What could possibly go wrong?


He posits an unorthodox solution of taxing algorithms, arguing, “We tax cigarettes and alcohol to suppress their use and fund policies to address some of their externalities. Programmatic ad buying, similar to other media buys, can be good/bad, and that’s a component of business. But this is addiction, and it’s hurting all of us. It’s time for an intervention.”


Disappearing cookies


Future Tense, the podcast from ABC - RN took this topic on in their October 17, 2021 episode, Disappearing cookies and a shortage of chips. 


Their guest expert Kipp Bodnar, the Chief Marketing Officer at Hubspot, described the scale of the challenge: 


I think the demise of cookie, as well as the challenges Covid has brought with it over the past 18 months, means that marketers fundamentally are going to have to take new approaches to business. They're really going to have to adapt. 
You have to remember Google is making these changes because they think that these changes are in the best interest of themselves and of their consumers and if you're a business today and you're relying on this third-party data you have to evolve and shift your strategy to be more in line with what your customers and consumers need and want. You're going to have to rely more on first party data that you get through those first party cookies and more kind of contextual approaches to advertising, email marketing, content marketing and the like. 
You know, I think fundamentally moving forward the secret to delivering better advertising is going to lie in the marketer's ability to unlock the data that they do have and get deeper insights from that data and use that data to get hyper relevant in messaging. I think they're going to have to create more creative and do more ad testing to actually move forward.


If you read one thing, make it this: 


As we all try to wrap our heads around the post-cookie internet, Morning Brew came along with an essential explainer, going right back to the basics of what a cookie is, where it came from, and what our online experience will look like without it. 


Third-party cookies explained


Their guide includes an interactive timeline, tracking the evolution of cookie-based advertising from the beginning.

Interactive timeline about third-party cookies


Like Kipp Bodnar’s reading of the situation, the Morning Brew summary offers an optimistic view on the future of digital advertising: 


Some in the industry believe the erasure of third-party cookies will be a good thing for the copywriters and art directors of the world. Why? Without cookies, it will only become harder for marketers to know that someone looked at red lipstick, then serve that person an ad featuring a picture of red lipstick and hope for the best.
In other words, creatives will literally need to get creative if they want to capture attention.


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