So you’ve heard the news: online advertising is preparing for perhaps its biggest shakeup, perhaps ever. Third-party cookies are slowly being phased out in response to growing consumer privacy concerns. However, some see this move as being akin to the baking industry phasing out flour!
Google’s removal of support for third-party cookies will create far-reaching interference across the digital marketing sector, but what does this mean for publishers whose advertisers have been using cookies as a crux for decades?
To those just coming across the issue, third-party cookies are any browser cookies that don’t originate from the website a user is browsing. That would be a first-party cookie, which are simpler tools used to track primary user data, such as basket items on web stores or login information.
Third-party cookies are hosted by advertisers and build a snapshot of individual consumers through browsing data, actions over various websites, and more. This data is then used to field hyper-personalised ads to user, increasing the likelihood of a click, purchase, sign-up, or whatever an advertiser may desire. So if you’re constantly looking up Sid the sloth porn, you’re probably going to end up with a whacky algorithm of ads.
In basic terms, third-party cookies have allowed advertisers to target consumers on a macro level that’s been previously inaccessible to marketers. Want to send an ad to men aged 33 or 34 who’ve purchased furniture in the last 14 days? It’s possible with third-party cookies, but it won’t be for long.
In digital advertising, the use of a publisher is two-fold; they’re traffic and content providers. High readership allows a baseline level of ad banners to be shown on a publisher’s website, and their nature also allows the placement of sponsored content in a variety of forms.
In this way, publishers are on both sides of the cookie coin. They can be leveraged to send users to brand websites or aid in the establishment of third-party data in many ways, and then their users are also advertised to – more often than not based on individual browsing data accumulated through third-party cookies.
Ad networks need publishers (or other high-traffic web pages), and publishers need ad revenue. And both sides benefit from the intricate data procured by third-party cookies. So, what’s about to change?
The immediate effect of this change will be a profound spike in the importance of first-party data, both for advertisers and consumers. Networks established through strong native content or the provision of service that consistently benefits consumers will be winners in this next phase in digital advertising, as these will mark digital marketplaces where an audience is both clearly defined and loyal.
Having in-depth and desirable analytics will be of utmost importance as advertisers strive to find the most applicable networks to leverage their ad spend. For publishers, the gathering and dissection of first-party data in the coming months will be a wise step to take.
It’s also likely that the acquisition of publisher user data will become a larger priority in the eyes of advertisers, which is something to certainly be wary of. Privacy is at the heart of this entire debate, meaning it’s hardly a time to ‘betray’ your readers by selling their data to a third party.
It’s also likely that some advertisers will swing back towards favouring native content campaigns that assist in telling the stories of the brands they represent. In the absence of more data-driven methods, robustly pitched creative campaigns remain an effective way of engaging a desired audience.
While it sits somewhat outside of the privacy debate, recent campaigns listed in the IPA Effectiveness Databank mirror a trend towards emotionally-driven advertising, compared to rationally-driven advertising. Publishers who have invested into in-house creative services or those who work with dedicated creative agencies will be the most equipped to handle these changes and provide the competitive results advertisers will be searching for.
Google themselves have outlined a few steps which are to be taken in providing much-needed targeted advertising in the follow-through of the demise of third-party cookies. These largely follow a trend towards the gathering of less individualised data through the establishment of large groups of users who share common browsing habits.
This, in line with new technology to aid in the anonymisation of advertising data, are being investigated in order to build a framework that will still allows advertisers to target specific demographics, albeit without necessarily knowing their name, date of birth, phone number, or address.
Alongside these changes, the private development of tools to emulate the specificity third-party cookies were able to provide is all but guaranteed. They already exist, but these tools will become more prominent with the loss of an industry standard.