Privacy Awareness Week, which recently wrapped up in Canada, had a simple but timely theme: “Make privacy a priority.” The marketing community has certainly been prioritizing privacy recently, preparing for a cookieless future that is consumer-first and consent-driven. At the Canadian Marketing Association’s annual CMAprivacy conference, Quantcast Head of Product Marketing, Shruti Koparkar, joined other advertising industry experts to delve into “A Privacy Rethink: Adjusting to the Major Developments Transforming Ad Tech.” In a panel discussion, facilitated by Andrea Longman (Vice President of Account Management, Environics Analytics), Shruti explored the impending changes with Drew Weicker (Vice President, North American Sales, DoubleVerify) and Brieanna Harburn (Product Marketing Manager, Facebook).

Due to “calls for more consumer transparency and control, major privacy initiatives have been impacting the digital advertising world,” Andrea stated, as she kicked off the panel discussion. Browser-level blocking, third-party ad blocking, and privacy laws “are leading the gradual phasing out of the third-party cookie.” As Drew observed, “We live in a world that’s constantly being built around us,” but this nonstop change is driving “creative concepts” and solutions. Brieanna also acknowledged the “larger shifts happening in the broader, digital ecosystem” that are driving businesses “to innovate their data practices now to meet people’s evolving expectations around both privacy and relevancy.” 

Shruti specified two ways in which the deprecation of third-party cookies will affect advertising on the open internet: “Third-party cookies help[ed] stitch together cross-site user behavior, giving an understanding of consumer intent and interest. With that gone, of course, [targeting, measuring, and attribution] will get challenging.” However, on the positive side, “it is also an opportunity for reinvention: newer, more creative solutions are being proposed” that “respect consumer privacy [and] their right to choice and consent.” 

Without third-party cookies to pull together all the components–the data management platforms (DMPs), demand-side platforms (DSPs), supply side platforms (SSPs)– of an advertiser’s tech stack, “these systems need to find different ways of interoperating with each other,” Shruti pointed out. In addition, she believes “we will likely see some consolidation,” within or across categories, and so marketers need to start actively thinking about these issues. Drew agreed “wholeheartedly that there will be a number of solutions that will pop up before there will be some consolidation.” 

Shruti observed that “there tends to be some confusion around” whether the decision to phase out third-party cookies was made by the browsers or government regulations, and thus she clarified: “It is because of the decisions that have been made by the browsers. It started with Apple deprecating it with ITP, Firefox and others followed, and now Google Chrome is going to deprecate by 2022. That being said, the public is increasingly aware of privacy. There are privacy regulations popping up all over, [including] GDPR and CCPA; Canada has stepped it up; Singapore has PDPA. And then, finally, these tech giants have been under regulatory scrutiny. So it’s not entirely surprising that they have positioned these changes as being compliance-inspired or privacy-forward. But definitely, it is due to the browsers making those changes.”

The one-hour panel discussion also focused on Apple’s introduction of their App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework and Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). Shruti acknowledged, “Certainly, marketers will be impacted,” in terms of “being able to reach their audience, one on one,” but the bigger question is how consumers will be impacted. As she pointed out, it is “advertising that powers the free and open internet.” Our “access to free apps, to free content, which entertain and educate us,” is reliant on advertising to pay for it. At Quantcast, Shruti stated, “our mission is to champion a free and open internet. And without advertising, that starts to fall apart.” Consumers may lose that free and open access. And, she added, they will be served ads that have zero relevance to them. 

As a solution, Shruti mentioned the need to educate consumers on the impact of their choices, encouraging “thought leadership” from “everyone involved in the tech industry.” Without this education, it could “adversely impact not just app developers and marketers but also consumers.” She explained: “I read a recent article from Mashable that said only 4% of users are consenting on iOS. On the one hand, [I’m glad] the users have choice and have the power to consent. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine what the ripple effect eventually is going to be, and so I do think there’s some level of consumer education that is needed. And then, of course, there is innovation that is needed to ensure we balance the privacy and personalization equation.”

In conclusion, Shruti provided several key takeaways for marketers as they prepare to navigate the cookieless future: 

  1. Make first-party data a big focus because having that direct relationship with your customers and consumers is incredibly important. 
  2. Have consent be part of your marketing strategy and work with tech partners who are making consent part of their strategy. 
  3. Take a hard look at your ad tech stack, and ask your tech partners the hard questions, such as how they plan to facilitate continued integration with other components of the stack; be sure you work with partners that have integrated offerings so you understand how your data sources will work with your activation capabilities.

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Interested in Learning More?

To learn more about the Quantcast perspective on major trends and solutions for the cookieless future, check out In a World Without Third-Party Cookies, What Happens to Advertising on the Open Internet?