Jan 28, 2020

The End of the Cookie is here

Will Google’s new approach to cookies change performance marketing for the better? Gone are the days of using trackers for third-party data, now is the time to embrace the wave of change in digital advertising.

  • Google has similarly followed suit after Apple and Mozilla restricted the use of tracking cookies, however, the sheer scale of their approach to these third party cookies in the Chrome browser is set to bring colossal industry changes.
  • Safari and Firefox have been blocking third-party cookies since last year but combined, Chrome is bigger than both with a whopping 63% worldwide market share.
  • In light of GDPR (general data protection regulation) coming into play in 2018 and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), the industry is experiencing a shift which could mean unwelcome changes for digital advertising…

“Users are demanding greater privacy and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet those demands.” Justin Schuh, director of engineering at Chrome.

Justin’s words prove how reactive brands have to be, as Chrome originally built its business on third party principles, and yet they are moving away from this because they have recognised it no longer aligns with their audience’s desires.

The search engine giant announced that their two-year time frame to phase out cookies on its Chrome browser will allow Google to develop a “healthy, ad-supported web” which should not undermine the business model of advertising. Their new plan is to encourage the use of technologies which should be less invasive and disruptive while incorporating a level of anonymity in tracking so that advertising will still have the ability to track ad performance.

Let’s reevaluate

Advertisers and agencies alike have experienced the tangible and measurable benefits of performance marketing and its ability to aid in the segmentation, targeting, measurement and conversion of consumers. Performance marketing is a powerful tool that advertisers can use to their advantage when ensuring short-term sales. This is especially helpful for retailers as they begin to recover from 2019 that saw sales drop 0.9% in November and December.

Nevertheless, now that the industry understands privacy must be prioritised, it should be recognised that performance marketing alone will not suffice. The savvy and innovative marketers will be those who explore ‘performance plus’ activity, especially now that the digital ecosystem develops away from the third-party data where it began.


When GDPR came into effect, advertisers lost some ability to upload user and cookie IDs into the comparative systems they previously used. This meant that marketers could no longer distinguish if a particular user had seen an ad or not, whether they have clicked on or not, and lastly, they could not correlate this back between activities and outcomes on their channels.

But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Data clean rooms mean that advertisers have the opportunity to regain some of this ability, even though the basis is aggregated rather than customer-level data. This method is a step in the right direction with Google’s announcement and increased regulations worldwide.

In sum, data clean rooms are there to allow data providers, like Google, have the chance to continue generating important audience insights and performance measurement information, but in a way that can be shared with advertisers and agencies in a secure and compliant way. As marketers have been aware of a cookieless future for a while, the transition should happen fairly naturally if they are prepared to innovate.

“[Advertisers] know publishers have close relationships with their audiences and are therefore in a good position when it comes to data collection and gaining consent from users. Now, advertisers have a countdown clock when those transitions to first-party data need to be complete.” Keith Pieper, vice-president of product operations at Sovrn.

Paid and organic activity close the gap

With the upcoming union of paid and organic activity, the tying together of paid search and display advertising with organic search and social channels is making an appearance - something that marketers have too often overlooked.

By integrating SEO and organic social management and measurement to the marketing mix, advertising can gain a whole new dimension to their insights. This is particularly beneficial now that paid channels - particularly search and social - are increasing in price and complexity. In addition, big-ticket events like the Olympic Games and US presidential elections this year mean that there will be a significant increase in CPMs (cost per thousand impressions, aka ‘cost per mile’) and as a result, more innovative and creative publisher formats.

Let’s not forget context and community

A recent Gartner for Marketers report has predicted that 80% of marketers are likely to stop investing in personalisation in the next five years, for reasons including a lack of significant ROI and customer data management.

As mentioned in our article last week, ‘Is Personalisation overrated?’, marketers must recognise that while there will be situations where one-to-one marketing is the best strategy, just like with personalisation, there is a danger of getting carried away with this approach and as a result, losing out on valuable reach and engagement.

The solution? Well, this decade should see the comeback of contextual marketing. It could be delivered on a one-to-few basis, or if the contextual subject is relevant at scale, then it could be delivered one-to-many. Data clean rooms will again, play a part in facilitating this new focus on contextual communications which will be as valuable if not more than personalised marketing for consumers.

Better integration = better creative

Marketers often battle with the need to deliver high-quality, tailored creative at scale. There has been a difficulty in committing to raising the creative bar which is in part, due to the growing focus on data-driven campaigns.

However, this new decade sees a lot of potential for the brands that are prepared to invest, understand and fuse their technology and creative more harmoniously. The new focus should be to ensure that this is available at the beginning of ideation as opposed to an afterthought.

While the increased regulations concerning data might initially be a hindrance for marketers, the key is to find new ways to measure effectiveness with other forms of data, for example, through the increased use of environments where first-party data is held or develop the focus on building brands online. Brands that resonate and add value to a consumer’s life are still considered fundamental in helping consumers make a choice. It is safe to say that the majority of audiences will be online, therefore, the clear route is to embrace this and build brands with new methods to measure their effectiveness.

A new decade means a clean slate and for marketers, now is the time to embrace change and improve advertising for the better. External change driven by regulations has presented an opportunity for a future where the business and consumers best interests are the sole focus if marketers can harness the power of creativity and technology together - and this is now how the cookie will crumble.