Are Cookies a thing of the past? If so, what does this mean for brands? How about their customers? Is this the end of targeting? From the marketing industry to state and federal governments, questions are swirling around data, tracking and privacy. The answers below will begin to help you navigate what could one day soon be a Cookieless world. 

What is a Cookie?

A Cookie is a text string that stores information on your browser. The most common is a user ID, which allows the browser to recall specific information about you. Marketers love Cookies because it helps them learn about their customers’ behaviors on the web and potentially serve more relevant ads to them. 

Cookies have been running “behind the scenes” since the dawn of online marketing. The concern is what marketers are able to do with the data Cookies collect, such as sell it to third parties, and the potentially negative impact this practice has on users’ privacy and security.

What is happening to the Cookie?

Cookies are now under scrutiny, forcing platforms to quickly pivot.

Google is phasing out third-party Cookies on Chrome by 2022. Safari and Firefox already block Cookies by default. At the time of this writing, first-party Cookies aren’t affected. For context, half of everyone online uses Google Chrome versus Safari (33%), Firefox (5%) and “other” (12%).

The shift has been unsurprising to most marketers, particularly those involved in programmatic advertising, because their customers have long been demanding more privacy and transparency in data collection and usage.

Although Google has not decided what the final solution will be for phasing out Cookies, the search giant has made clear that there will be “privacy-preserving and open-standard mechanisms” that will maintain “an ad-supported web.”

What does this mean for online advertising?

By the end of 2020, Google will begin trials that allow for click-based conversion measurement without third-party Cookies. These conversions will be tracked within the browser, allowing outside ad tech companies to perform an API call to their Privacy Sandbox that pulls personalization and measurement data without user-level information. This will likely mean, however, that interest-based targeting will be trickier because the data will be grouped and 1:1 messaging will no longer be available. The pilots for the targeting options have yet to be released.

These changes will affect Google’s DoubleClick platform, too. Specifically, running ads through the ad exchange and collecting data. For those ads to continue running, there would need to be a Privacy Sandbox API. The upcoming pilots will compare monetization for publishers under the new setup versus the old with its third-party cookies in place.

We reached out to our partners at The Trade Desk, our primary programmatic partner, for perspective. “In short, we’re thrilled Google is leading the charge in sunsetting what is among the most antiquated pieces of technology in our space,” a representative responded. “There is, of course, a lot in flux around exactly what will replace the Cookie. But as is the case with the lion’s share of programmatic today–CTV, Mobile, In-App, Audio–where no Cookies are being used, we anticipate a better and more secure alternative.”

Our research, as of December 2019, shows that 54% of web users have moved to mobile as their primary point of internet access, followed by 41% desktop and 7% tablet. Of all these users, 71% also use OTT/CTV services. US mobile users are estimated to increase from 262 million to 287 million by 2023, while desktop is expected to decrease YoY. Further, the elimination of Cookies will have one of two results. The first is that there will be a device ID for each computer. The second is that there will be a Browser ID for Chrome specifically, which would be isolated from phone and computer manufacturers.

For now, the Trade Desk is actively working with Google Chrome and other major players in the ad tech industry to explore alternatives to Cookies in order to preserve the important value exchange of the internet.

Our Approach to Navigating Without the Cookie.

Mindgruve is focused on first-party and contextual strategies. We help brands develop tech stacks to deepen their understanding of customers and how to utilize data to find more. Then we create nurture strategies for them to engage leads. All the while, we collaborate with our partners on Cookieless, identity-based solutions. 

For more information on navigating a Cookieless world, contact us today.

Also check out our related article on Data Privacy and the Marketing Dilemma