Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why marketers should embrace cookieless advertising now

By Matt White, Vice President of Quantcast 

80% of advertisers rely on third-party cookies to reach their target markets and more than two thirds (69%) believe their demise will have a bigger impact on the industry than GDPR. It’s probably not all that surprising to hear the industry is worried about the impending change and a ‘cookieless’ future, but it needn’t be that way.

In reality, a quarter of internet users are already unavailable to advertisers who rely on third-party cookies due to browsers including Firefox and Safari banning them. This equates to more than 15.7 million people in the UK alone, and a staggering 1.23 billion people worldwide. So, why are we scrambling over a cookie deadline being imposed by Google Chrome, when so many internet users have been inaccessible for years already?

It seems that since Google’s announcement, the concerns of marketers and advertisers have grown exponentially. That doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, the deadline shouldn’t be feared – a cookie reset is long overdue and preparing now won’t just ensure your business is ready but will also give you access to new audiences before your competitors even contemplate making the change.

Hello from the other side

No marketing strategy that relies solely on third-party cookies can be a complete one when so many prospects aren’t being reached. However, savvy marketers have already been testing the power of cookieless advertising to reach untapped audiences. They are also focused on more than a single approach to replace the third-party cookie, because the best cookieless solutions are built on first-party data, cohorts, contextual and more, using an AI-driven ensemble to understand audiences, value advertising, and measure results.  

Nothing new here

Daunting as it may seem, the tide has been turning against the third-party cookie for many years now – and rightfully so. A significant share of internet activity is already taking place in cookieless environments, most notably Safari and Firefox. This means that anybody not advertising on cookieless inventory today is already missing out. 

That’s why we should welcome – and hasten – the deprecation of the third-party cookie. We are already seeing that those who advertise in cookieless environments early can reap the competitive advantage of access to new audiences, more inventory, and more scaled advertising results.

Our client Virgin Media has seen a 4x increase in new leads with cookieless prospecting and a 24% increase in new customers acquired in cookieless environments. Through cookieless advertising they managed to beat their current CPA goal by 50%.

A not so timeless classic

Did you know that the data provided by third-party cookies can be weeks or even months old? Its accuracy is therefore questionable, potentially misleading advertisers who rely on it for audience insights, campaign activation, and measurement. Now maybe you’re starting to realise why this deadline isn’t such a bad thing, especially as not all cookies are like this. The first-party counterparts are already playing a vital role in advertising, along with cohorts, contextual and more. 

First-party data is infinitely more trustworthy. In the case of third-party cookies, the source is often unknown. Someone collects, classifies and packages it before it’s passed on. These segments are prone to inaccurate labelling and loose classification. In an ever-changing, privacy-first world it’s crucial that the data we use as marketers and publishers can be relied on and future-proofed. 

Time for an upgrade

The world is evolving and every aspect of our lives has been digitised and upgraded in some way. For example, long gone are the days of huge paper catalogues arriving in the mail. Instead, we browse online, find what we want and often have it arrive the next day. With this logic in mind, businesses shouldn’t be afraid of turning their backs on a legacy system and instead welcome cookieless advertising with open arms.

What does the cookieless future hold?

The future of targeted advertising is about coordinating multiple data signals. Relying on a single source isn’t enough and makes it harder to futureproof your advertising.

So, instead of pining for the past, Forrester predicts brands focusing on AI will fuel 20% of media and advertising growth in 2022. I have to agree as the truth is, regardless of how the industry evolves in the coming years, the cookieless era is just around the corner – and it’s already here on Safari and Firefox. Marketers should now be focusing on finding new, privacy-first ways to accurately understand and reach audiences at scale to remain relevant to consumers. Brands that make the move now and leave third-party cookies in the past, where they belong, will unquestionably gain a long-term competitive advantage.

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