Taking the biscuit – why cookie replacements won’t last

Taking the biscuit – why cookie replacements won’t last
A different sort of cookie (which is much easier to illustrate)

Havas UK’s chief data and product officer explains what to look for in a viable long-term tracking solution.

After much delay and discussion, Google is finally taking the first steps to start the process of deprecating third-party cookies from its Chrome browser.

It promises that 1% of third-party cookie blocking will begin in “early” January 2024, in a first release it is calling ‘M120’.

To be fair, we all promise to do new things in January. But this is one new year resolution the industry should take seriously.

We have ensured that our Technology Solutions team does nothing drastic in January – more alcohol and more cakes (but probably not cookies) are certainly in order as we make the steps to protect all advertisers from the inevitable loss of reach and measurement that will come in 2024.

No need to change the pitch deck

But what’s the problem? The industry reached its consensus long ago — cookies are rubbish anyway.

It’s first party data that’s now invited to all the Christmas lunches, with second party data providers invited along to help with “enrichment” — the data equivalent of making amusing anecdotes once your boss gets too drunk and starts repeating the same old stories and boring everyone.

The reason we’re all so cheerful is that ID resolution solutions basically promise to do what the cookie did anyway.

So, no need to change the pitch deck — we’ve covered, business as usual. No need to go explain to the CFO why that expensive data contract won’t be used next year.

The elephant in the room

But there is a problem, and everyone knows it deep down.

Simply replacing one tracking solution with another one that basically does the same thing doesn’t really…. Well, it doesn’t really feel right, does it?

It’s hard to see that the brave new world imagined by regulators and demanded by consumers was instead a system where we used personal identifiers such as email addresses to track an individual across the ad ecosystem. Just… without them really understanding what’s happening.

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. And advertisers making a big investment in tech and data sources that deliver this workaround should already be thinking about the next solution, one that genuinely respects consumer demands for privacy online.

The importance of 1PD

There’s no doubt that building a solid understanding of customers with their consent and using technology such as data clean rooms to connect this audience understanding to our media activation is the right solution.

Customer data (and any other unique dataset) is the most valuable asset a client has. Extracting new insights and learning from this data is the most important step for gaining competitive advantage.

It’s data, not algorithms, that will be the next frontier in AI advancement.

Going beyond the regulation

Complementing a strong 1PD strategy with a smart approach to contextual targeting seems like the smartest bet.

Contextual solutions have been criticised for creating broad audiences that lack the precision advertisers are used to — but with smart analytics, we can pinpoint and prioritise the audiences that are delivering results to deliver precision marketing in the new world.

If you can crack this, you have a future-proof solution that genuinely works and respects consumer privacy.

Any attempts to ignore consumer demands for privacy and the spirit of the regulations won’t work.

Certainly, a range of technology and solutions are needed to face the new world. But before making the massive investment needed — check two things:

Will it work, and will it payback?

And avoid the massive headache in January 2025 when you have to start again.

Laura Kell, chief data and product officer, Havas Media Network UK

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