Considerations For a Cookieless Future

With Google seemingly pushing back the final phase-out of cookies from 2022 to ‘23 and now ‘24 (with faint whispers of a move back to early 2025?), it’s been easy for the MadTech industry to be a little complacent about building strategies, let alone executing them, for a cookieless world. For some, it’ll be a cookiepocalpyse.

I think too many C-level executives aren’t being appropriately advised on the sheer amount of work and complexity going into a seamless, post-cookie environment. Don’t take my word for it – check out some recent eye-opening research conducted by Fyllo, an advertising solutions company. They surveyed 201 decision-makers responsible for digital advertising budgets in September 2023. Included in their findings:

86% of the C-Suite Feels They Can Operate Without Cookies,

Yet Only 62% of Front-Line Employees Agree

Even if you take the C-Suite’s opinions at face value, the following statistic should give everyone pause:

Only 30% of C-Suite Execs are Worried About a Cookieless Future and its Impacts on Attribution, Yet 86% of Front-Line Employees Are

Unless you have unlimited resources, zero technical debt, and a product roadmap ahead of schedule, you ignore the broad consequences of cookie deprecation at your company’s peril. It’s not like we don’t have a historical precedent here, either. Remember what happened with social media measurement and ITP? The industry experienced almost complete signal loss by Facebook; the result was much work to end up with a much worse measurement solution. Companies went out of business, and an entire industry – DTC – took it on the chin.  I can’t stress it enough: C-suite executives have a fiduciary responsibility to understand the financial impact that delay or inaction on cookie deprecation will have on their businesses.

So what to do? How do we finally wean ourselves off cookies and move to a future where analytics are accurate and marketers enjoy better performance? To be fully operational in a post-cookie world (and by all accounts, the target date should be Labor Day 2024), execution plans must be in place very soon.

We think there are several elements to focus on, a checklist of sorts: Clearing up after the cookie apocalypse will be messy for even the best-prepared.

Test Your Readiness

Here are seven areas business leaders should consider to determine their readiness for third-party cookie deprecation:

Identity Resolution

  • Without the crutch of third-party cookies, how do you plan to identify known and unknown users across devices and channels over time? 
  • Have you appropriately planned for the potential financial impacts due to signal loss when we move to a cookieless world? These changes may impact advertising effectiveness (Reach, Frequency Capping, Effective CPMs), direct revenue for e-commerce, ad inventory monetization for publishers, and more.

 

  • Have you created an enterprise identity graph (to include first-party data) to assist in resolving user identifiers using deterministic and or probabilistic matching logic?

First-Party Data

  • As a brand or publisher (the advertiser), do you have a reliable mechanism for collecting first-party data, such as customers’ purchase history, users’ preferences set in their accounts, interactions with your email campaigns, or conversations users have had with your customer support team? As a service provider, do you have reliable mechanisms to enable your clients to collect first-party data at scale across all clients?
  • Do you have sufficient mechanisms to manage user consent for using their data in place and to facilitate a consumer’s request to be forgotten?

 

  • Have you created a persistent first-party identifier the advertiser owns that can be used across the AdTech ecosystem for audience activation to retarget site visitors?

Data Enrichment

  • What is your plan to supplement your first-party data with ongoing third-party data sources to enrich what you know about your audiences to ensure the continuity of existing capabilities?

 

  • If electing not to enrich your first-party data further, have you adequately prepared for the gaps in data from the loss of third-party supplementary data?

Activation

  • Do you have a plan to activate your first-party audiences across the ad tech ecosystem without the use of third-party cookies? What other types of identifiers will you use? Have you considered the impacts on your reach and accuracy?
  • Are you prepared to move from cookie-based to contextual targeting (using first-party data)?

 

  • What is your plan to personalize ads to your target segments once cookies are deprecated?

Measurement and Attribution

  • Will your existing analytics, attribution, and measurement models continue functioning as intended in a successful future? 
  • How will you calculate the impacts of signal loss as you move throughout 2024 and Google rolls out the changes? 

 

  • Can you confidently ensure you can avoid double-counting users visiting from multiple devices or in anonymous sessions? If not, how might that impact your overall results?

Data Governance and Privacy

  • Do you have sufficient data governance and compliance measures to handle the ever-increasing proliferation of privacy protection regulations?  (Including the technology to help you recognize the jurisdiction the user is in when they are interacting with your media)?
  • Is your data under your control and secured within your own infrastructure, or are you relying on a third-party provider to protect your data (and that of your users)? If so, does this present any regulatory problems for your industry?

Data Clean Room Evaluation

  • Have you begun to evaluate the potential need, effectiveness, and cost implications for secure data collaboration with partners via data clean rooms?
  • If so, how effective are your strategies, and will they continue to be reliable in a cookieless world?

 

  • Alternatively, could a data forward or compute forward architecture suffice for now, enabling you to access multiple sources of data to run analytics and segmentation, without moving any data? 

Did You Pass With Flying Colors?

For those of you who have carefully considered each of these topics and are comfortable with your answers to the questions we’ve posed, we salute you!  For those of you who are still unsure, I invite you to get in touch with me at msabatini@aqfer.com. Aqfer is ready and able to help you expedite your 2024 third-party cookie deprecation planning and execution.