After Google’s most recent announcement, third-party cookies are expected to be fully deprecated from all web browsers in mid-2023, when market-leading Google Chrome joins Apple’s Safari and other browsers in no longer recognizing the bits of code placed on web browsers that help companies understand consumer behaviour across the internet. As such, the trusted open internet will lose its current basis for advertising campaign measurement and attribution. The primary way in which advertisers and publishers currently derive insights into ad effectiveness will go away, impacting everything from how brands decide to spend their advertising budgets and grow their businesses, to how publishers fund themselves and survive in the future and how valuable the internet is for consumers around the world.
Despite the extended timeline (the change was originally scheduled for January 2022), the countdown is still on for the industry to adapt. So, what will the future of advertising on the open internet look like? How will consumer consent be recognized and success be measured? And what actions do advertisers need to take now to get ready for the change? This paper will address important factors to consider, and why identity solutions, consumer privacy and first-party data should be at the heart of advertiser contingency plans.
WHAT SHOULD BRANDS AND PUBLISHERS BE DOING NOW?
There are five areas that brand and publishers should be focusing on right now:
Prioritizing measurement: Brands and publishers should already be in the process of testing new ways to deliver and measure online advertising with partners that are not solely reliant on third-party cookies.
Consider consumer relationships and experience: Solutions that enable measurement at the sacrifice of consumer experience will not be a long-term fix. If presented with overly interruptive pop-ups and logins, consumers are likely to go elsewhere for their content and news.
Begin testing new ideas to drive compliant first-party data: For brands especially, curating a significant volume of first-party data — that is data that they collect from their customers directly — will be essential. We can expect to see new ideas when it comes to brands offering a value exchange, such as offering discounts and deals for consumers who are logged in to their site or have signed up for a newsletter.
Test new experiential opportunities to engage your desired audiences: Even some very large brands like P&G or Nestle do not enjoy direct relationships with consumers as their products are sold via other retailers. Brands should be considering live events or experiential marketing opportunities (now increasingly an option thanks to vaccine rollouts worldwide) to get in front of their consumers and build relationships. This data gap between large brands and their end consumers is one of the reasons behind the large growth in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) market.
Compliance: Compliance with applicable legislation is table stakes. Many companies had to erase vast amounts of data when GDPR came into effect. Non-compliant techniques, such as pre-checked opt-in boxes or unclear explanations of how data will be used, will not help build trust with consumers.
THE PATH FORWARD
The challenges in sustaining a free and open and trusted internet, funded by advertising in a way that better protects consumer data privacy, will not be solved by any one organization. It will take a wide spectrum of companies from across the online publishing, advertising and technology industries collaborating together to carve a path forward.
There are three pillars that should be the focus of every organization that is impacted by this change:
Industry standards: It is vital that every player seeks partnerships, opportunities for collaboration and idea sharing that will benefit the collective network of companies involved in delivering online advertising today. It is only by bringing together diverse ideas and perspectives that we will build an internet that will thrive for years to come. By sharing insights and approaches to tackling the problem, we can ‘check each other’s work’ in a self-regulating system that establishes reliable and thoughtful industry standards.
Interoperability: No one solution will suit the diverse needs and contexts of the vast range of audiences and companies involved in the online ecosystem. This is reflected in the numerous alternative solutions coming forward from different parts of the industry. It is essential that these diverse signals reflecting consumer consent can be recognized and incorporated into the process of delivering and measuring online ads.
Innovation: The answer to this moment of change cannot simply be a convenient work-around to the data privacy issue and absence of third-party cookies. Any such solution will simply become the next target for regulators and consumer grievances. Instead, we must leverage increasingly available technologies like AI and machine learning to deliver innovative new solutions that will sustain a free and open and trusted internet for years to come.