Rethinking digital advertising – consequence and action in a post cookie world

The cookie is dead ­– long live the cookie! 

Most marketers have by now heard that the “3rd party” cookie is effectively no longer a part of digital advertising’s future. But few have fully understood the impact of this on the way they plan their marketing activities.

 If you are part of the digital marketing ecosystem, this article is for you.

Let’s start with the cookie

The term, as you may know, refers to a script that enables ads to be targeted to users based on specific criteria. Only want redheads in a certain city to see your ads? The cookie collects user data and matches them against those criteria and if there is a match, your ad is loaded.

So what’s the problem? Well, many actually – but chief among them is the fact that this “cookie sync” takes time (slow browser speed = bad media experience) . The second issue is the collection and reuse of data itself. There is a lot of personal data that is unnecessarily and even unlawfully being collected and used to target users that are quite frankly fed up with being tracked across the internet.

As a consequence of this, many web browsers have now by default set cookie syncing to “off”, and more are joining in. It started on mobile, where browser speed over mobile networks is a particularly sensitive topic, and it’s reaching more and more browsers. In January Google announced that by 2022 it would ban all 3rd party cookies (i.e. data syncing based on information that is not collected and used by the site being visited) in their Chrome browser, affecting the majority of all internet traffic.

That means that anyone using retargeting as a tool to reach audiences outside their own site with ads will be flying blind.

What is this really about?

If you think that Google cares deeply about your digital mobile experience you may as well believe in Santa Claus. This has everything to do with the tremendous amount of value that lies in collecting and packaging user information digitally. Google effectively controls such a vast amount of user data across all digital surface (search, maps, devices, browsers, purchasing history, movement and operating systems) that they can «own» the whole spectrum of information about users across the globe. They can (and will) become a monopolist in the business of selling and using data to target ads across the “open web” – the monetary value of this is beyond comprehension. The “closed web” belongs to Facebook who own similar data sets across their platforms FB, Instagram and WhatsApp. Between them they are called “The Duopoly” – and competing with them for scale and availability of user data is not even bringing a knife to a gunfight, it’s trying to fight a war that is long since over.

What does it mean for advertisers?

Well, it means that all your user data, history and collected consent is more or less useless outside the “googleverse”. If you believe in the importance of a free press, the value of local media and / or believe in the value of brand safety that comes from having your ads seen on premium publisher property – you need to think differently about what engages your audience.

What does this mean for publishers?

Initially – it’s bad news on bad news. Today, most ad–inventory sold programmatically uses cookies to match page impression with advertisers bid. Without the sync, advertisers don’t know who sees their ad and will pay less / will not get the impression – and so the ad goes to the next bidder on a lower price point. A principle of diminishing return that is enhanced by increasing amount of page impressions with no cookie-sync as more browsers block them.

In the long run there is a growth opportunity for (big) publishers with substantial user-information that can be used (the so called “1st party cookie”) to target readers.

So digital advertising is going to die?

Fortunately, no. This boils down to a question about digital privacy. Personal data is exactly that: personal! Information about users belong to users. Understanding and respecting this simple principle changes the entire premise for how we at Strossle think about audiences.

This is the path forward

Question: What is the unifying force between skiers? Is it Income, home address or gender? No – it’s a love for snow.
Question: What is the common denominator between Beatles fans? Is it age, sexual preference or last visited city? No, it’s a preference for music made by The Beatles.

Now if I wanted to reach skiers or Beatles fans for business purposes, but I cannot through data determine if they already own skis or all the Beatles albums, I have to change my targeting methods accordingly. Instead of using history about travel, purchasing or other personal data – I have to appeal to the passions for what they love.

We call this PULL marketing. I use interest and context to create engagement, and it’s the opposite of PUSH marketing where I use data and information to identify users.

My messaging to engage skiers or music lovers must then be created and distributed for context (skiing-related websites or music forums for example) and circumstance (mobile friendly content about my ski or music related services). Through my expertise in the field of winter sports or music I can deliver a message that invites the users into a shared universe that will attract, engage and delight them along a customer journey towards my business goals.

There is no safer or more effective place to do this in the digital realm than through established traffic points that already have an engaged audience – i.e. trusted media sites.

Advertisers and media companies have a mutually beneficial relationship that can grow and improve if they realize that the key to creating, sustaining and growing an audience online is to move away from personal data and work towards contextual marketing based on creating engagement and enthusiasm.

It’s a way for publishers to benefit from great journalism around engaging topics and its a way for advertisers move attention from cognitive awareness to emotional loyalty.

Good luck!

 

About the author

Rickard Lawson is Chief Marketing Officer for Strossle International. Strossle is Europe’s leading Native Advertising Platform for advertisers and publishers looking to grow revenue and audience engagement. Strossle works with more than 700 publishers and thousands of advertisers in 11 European markets through transparency and non-intrusive advertising. Strossle has an office also in Helsinki.

Rickard is an avid skier, but more of a metal head than a Beatles fan.