Advertisers have long been known for how well they accept change, pivot to new possibilities and adopt the newest technologies. There is not only an understanding of what’s out there now but also what’s on the horizon. The death of third-party cookie tracking is no exception.

Since 1994 when cookie tracking emerged, there has been a steady stream of usage ranging from tracking website visitors, improving user experience, to collecting data to deliver the right ad to the right audience (at the right time). Cookies have been paramount to the storytelling of analytics and media campaigns and have also spurred the movement of marketing budgets from traditional to digital.

The reality is third-party cookies are dying and many have not thought about their marketing in a post-cookie tracking digital world. For the few digital rock stars and media mavens out there, success rests in their ability to pivot, plan and see the value that this shift will bring in terms of consumer data and transparency.

Jeff Green, CEO of the Trade Desk says to help fuel the open internet we must continue “to clean up the content supply chain and improve transparency. It means applying emerging technology to drive advertising relevance while protecting consumer data and privacy. It means sharing more of our identity tools, providing greater control for consumers and more reliable, profitable revenue streams for great content.”

What is cookie tracking (aka cookies)

Cookies are small files placed in browsers that can record information about online activity — the name of the websites visited, IP information, geographical location, items purchased, the time of day of the purchase and much more. The short of it is, they can track anything that falls into demographic, geographic, psychographic and firmographic buckets. Third-party cookies that belong to one website (website A) can track your behavior across the web and on other websites (Websites B, C, D, etc).

Who stole the Cookie?

Recent laws such as the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) require websites to obtain consent from users to use cookies while browsing the site, hence the cookie consent banner.

Other technology giants such as Apple are doing away with not only cookie tracking but the collection of data and reporting metrics such as conversions in Facebook. This is becoming a somewhat volatile environment that needs a solution fast and although there is no crystal ball into the future of this or any other change in the marketing landscape there is a way forward.

Where do we go from here?

There is one currently available solution, and two more quickly forming that we find very intriguing:

1. First-party data: This data is the information you collect from your prospects and customers; data from behaviors, actions or interests pulled from your website or app or even data from your CRM. Managing a CRM (e.g., Salesforce, SharpSpring) is the first step to filling the void left by the disappearing third-party data. The information gleaned from those who interact with your business and opt in can create profiles and audiences that can then be applied to advertising efforts.

2. Unified ID 2.0 (aka UID 2.0 or just ID 2.0): This is an open-source initiative that uses consumers' anonymized email addresses gathered when a user logs into a website or app (on any screen, including Connected TV), by assigning an identifier. The identifier is not only updated often to ensure security, but the individual can also set preferences to ensure data is not being shared incorrectly.

3. FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts): This is Google's solution to the ending of third-party cookies. With FLoC, instead of individual cookies being aggregated at the personal level and passed from sites to platforms, browsing data would live within each browser. FLoC would then assign individual browsers to larger groups (or cohorts) of thousands of users based upon that browsing data, thereby giving individuals their online privacy. As an individual’s browsing behavior changes, their browser will assign them to a different FLoC that reflects those interests.

Where would we place our bet?

Innis Maggiore is most excited about ID 2.0. We have partnered with the Trade Desk, which has aligned itself with ID 2.0. With the adoption of this technology the Trade Desk has become a force in the programmatic advertising space, well before the conversation of an inevitable “cookiepocalypse” was present. ID 2.0 has been organized as a non-profit with an independent group picking up the effort.

So, it’s all up to big tech?

Cookies, as they function now, are going to disappear. FLoC and ID 2.0 are two mainstream ways data are being collected for advertisers without cookie tracking, but necessity is the mother of invention. Remember, we're at the impasse of finding a balance that empowers users while allowing the advertising ecosystem to function effectively.

Passing up the opportunities, that systems like the Trade Desk offers (ID 2.0), could put an organization behind the mark, but so is assuming there are no other ways (or will never be). It’s up to you, marketers, to capitalize on the inventory of data available on your own databases. So, the question remains, how do you move forward amidst ever changing data collection technology?

If you are unsure how to navigate this tracking jungle and need guidance to become a master at first-party data, ID 2.0 and a cookie-less digital world, contact Innis Maggiore for more information.