The future of a cookie-less world isn’t in the future

It’s on it’s way and looks certain to hit every marketer on earth by the end of 2023. Which is why you need to act NOW!

Every performance marketer can hold a ‘deprecation celebration’, says Doron Gerstel, CEO of Perion. So long as you get your head out of the sand and get ahead of the game…

Question: How is the cookie-less world like climate change?

Answer: We know it is coming and we’re not doing enough about it.

If you saw the recent movie Don’t Look Up, you know how hard it is to snap people into the hard reality of recognizing the risks of an inevitable future. But one critical difference between cookies and climate change is that there are opportunities to start experimenting right now – swiftly and meaningfully – with new, privacy-protective technologies that can make a material difference in the situation.

This is imperative for all marketers, but particularly those who are in the business of performance marketing and need to create a frictionless onboarding experience to a cookie-less future.

In fact, beyond those focused on the bottom-of-the-funnel, this is a reality that all of us in the industry need to get ahead of. It is essential for the marketing leaders of the future to conduct their due diligence into emerging technologies that will prepare them for a cookie-less world. There are answers within reach; in at least one case (discussed below), technology enables both superior performance and certified privacy protection.

What’s more, there are also certification platforms, like Neutronian – which exist to certify cookie-advertising platforms.

But before we get to that, though, let’s quickly review the unstoppable headwinds that will redefine fundamental structures of digital marketing.

The clock is ticking

Google delayed their self-imposed deadline, by which to deprecate third-party cookies in its Chrome browser, from March 2022 to the late 2023.

That might seem far away now, but it will come down on the industry faster than you think, and it provides agencies and brands with time to test cookie-free alternatives in a/b models, and develop new baselines for the future. While Google decided to end its initial trial of their Chrome-based cookie-less option – named FLoC, for Federated Learning of Cohorts – there are other opportunities for immediate test-and-learn experimentation.

Consumers are voting with their clicks

We are reaching a privacy tipping point more rapidly than many expected. Consumer concerns about privacy are dramatically increasing, with the authoritative Pew Research Center revealing that around half of all Americans made a decision not to use a product or service because of privacy concerns. The same study found that 21 percent of the sample chose not to use a specific website based on fears of data collection.

A McKinsey report found that 64 percent of users have cleared cookies and browser history; they write: “As consumers become more careful about sharing data, and regulators step up privacy requirements, leading companies are learning that data protection and privacy can create a business advantage.”

Government is starting to wake up

In his State of the Union address, President Biden spoke of the need for enhanced privacy protection, and we can expect a great deal of continued Congressional and regulatory attention to the matter – especially as it relates to the digital habits of children.

Indeed, there is so much happening on the federal and state levels that the IAPP – International

Association of Privacy Professionals – has privacy news tracker on their website, and you might want to use it too!

Advertisers are starting to wake up

There are a number of powerful signals that the brand community is sending about their recognition of privacy as a pillar of their consumer-facing strategies. Back in 2000, IBM was one of the first companies to name a CPO, or Chief Privacy Officer. Today it is standard practice, as everyone from Airbnb to Pfizer and Uber and Walmart have that C-Level position filled.

But this role isn’t to innovate, it’s to protect consumers and be their guardians. It falls inevitably to those who work in marketing and customer acquisition to act simultaneously as both stewards of privacy and generators of performance and profitability.

Get ahead of the future by living in it now

Contextual texting is one way for marketing people to meet the cookie-less challenges. But on its own, it falls far short. It has been a feature of digital marketing for decades but, imperfect as it is, it is now picking up more serious traction. In fact, a report from Winterberry Group found more than half (52 percent) of surveyed marketers plan to increase their spending on contextual targeting.

So, what’s the best approach? Marketers should aggressively seek out and test innovative solutions that leverage the latest in artificial intelligence, machine learning and neural networks to deliver cookie-less solutions that are superior to the privacy invading alternatives.

Contextual signals will be part of that, but they are one-dimensional and do not factor in how users respond to a broad range of message content. New solutions need to weave together full signal integration; further, we cannot ignore the role of breakthrough creative in capturing attention in the absence of cookies.

In short, the digital marketers who will win in the future are those who get a running start on exploring, embracing and experimenting with new technologies. And in being the evangelists in their brands and agencies, success will come to those who don’t sit on the sidelines but are on the front lines of change.

To paraphrase the movie title: Don’t look up, look forward!