In the absence of cookies, the $100 billion digital advertising industry will undergo a revamp. Google recently announced a plan to phase third-party cookies out of its internet Chrome browser and have them completely blocked by 2022. This is not unfamiliar territory for marketers. Apple’s Safari and Mozilla Firefox both blocked third-party cookies a few years ago, due to growing privacy concerns. But unlike its predecessors, Google is giving notice and additionally proposing Privacy Sandbox, a system that promises to maintain user anonymity while still allowing advertisers access to their targeting tools.
Nevertheless, the Association of National Advertisers and American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) joined forces to voice concerns about the potential economic impacts inherent in the killing of cookies, saying such a move could disrupt current internet infrastructures. In response, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) proposed a solution at its February Annual Leadership Meeting. Called “Project Rearc” (short for re-architecture), the multi-phase plan will unite brands, agencies and tech companies to formulate new technologies and methods of using data to target consumers. And amid the impending “cookie-pocalypse,” marketers are finding other ways to cope. Here are a few.
New online restrictions will present opportunities for advertisers to revisit more traditional engagement models and produce thoughtful, creatively executed videos or branded content. Gen Z members are big fans of branded stories, and the two preceding demographic groups—millennials and Generation X—likewise vibe to brands that engage with them via custom content that’s reflective of their specific world and social views. No matter what screen it’s viewed on, video’s ability to trigger an emotional response makes it an essential medium for today’s marketers who are finding new ways to utilize the power of sight, sound and motion to directly engage with consumers.
IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg acknowledged that 81 percent of consumers want brands to get to know them better. As a result, Project Rearc is proposing a revolutionary universal login system for the mutual benefit of both parties. Consumers would manage their own privacy settings to enter an encrypted email address or phone number, whereby marketers could target them with ads. Even better, logins would work across thousands of websites.
Many marketers are likewise moving away from business models with baked-in third-party data platforms and instead constructing first-party strategies that introduce ecommerce offerings or digital services that foster richer consumer interactions. McDonald’s, for example, announced plans to purchase Dynamic Yield, the Israeli startup that provides brands with valuable personalization software. The fast-food giant will use that technology to deliver ever-more personalized customer experiences by programming digital drive-through menus to suggest food options based on weather, time of day and trending menu items, among other factors, thus helping McDonald’s incorporate decision technology at brick-and-mortar locations.
It’s All About Context
Contextual targeting—the practice of running ads within content related to the product (video ads for sneakers on a running forum, for example) will likely increase in a world where cookies have grown scarce. Conversely, retargeting is expected to dwindle, as transferring data across platforms proves difficult. The upshot? Media mavens are looking at new sets of indicators—keywords, time and location stamps, environmental factors—to snag audiences online.
No transition period is without hiccups—yet considered from the plate half full perspective, killing cookies offers agencies and marketers a real chance to thrive, as they continue finding fresh, exciting ways to build creative and strategic platforms for engaging users. We may initially miss our sugary treats, but supporters argue they’ll be succeeded by a healthier new world order, where transparency is de rigueur and relationships between advertisers and consumers strive consistently for authenticity.