As the Cookie Crumbles, What’s Next for Advertisers?

Digital advertising is an industry built on innovation. In the coming months, we will, like never before, need to showcase our ability to innovate.  

As many of you may be aware, the foundational technology behind much of what we see online is based on “cookies” placed on your devices.  

COOKIE – Data stored in a small text file(s) on your browser. Invented to solve the problem of “how to remember information about a user.” 

Many have a poor perception of them, while others see the value they have to users in helping to customize the web.  

Cookies are the mechanism that helps publishers remember who you are, helping to customize your experience on their domain. Marketers also use these mechanisms to ensure their ads are relevant to users.  

The general perception is that people are being tracked, and that is the case. But we would argue that tracking is a net positive, if you are informed.  

No matter where you stand, you’re about to experience an internet that will look and feel a whole lot different. 

Over the past five years, the online advertising industry has been actively debating the use of cookies and tomorrow’s potential without them. 

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) accelerated that discussion, as the law became a reality in the EU, which required users’ explicit consent. We began to catch a glimpse of what this world may look like. The GDPR laws required consent, and with little surprise marketers were required to adapt as many users opted to deny consent.  

Fast forward to 2021, and things are about to move much faster, impacting us all. Google, a massive player in the browser world via Chrome, announced that cookies would be removed within two years, putting best estimates in the Q4-22 range. Most significantly, Apple released a core iOS update (iOS 14) that requires apps to obtain permission to track users. To date, Apple’s move has been the most significant, due to the scale of iPhone users in both Canada and worldwide.  

What will Change? 

A portion of your experience with the internet will begin to change.  

Relevance: We believe that the content and ads you will see will become less relevant in some cases due to the loss of the cookie.  

That said, as we progress through this process and innovation becomes a reality, we believe that both the publishers and advertisers will find more mature solutions.  

Ad Targeting: As we have quickly highlighted, ad targeting will see impacts. Contextual environments will once again come to the forefront, allowing marketers to make predictions on your interests based on the context of the webpage you are viewing.  

We will also see a heightened use of contextual signals (ex. time of day, weather, etc.) 

Strategy: Media strategy has always played a significant role in digital marketing. That said, the underlying technology in the ecosystem has/had gotten so strong that a weak strategy may have been salvaged by stellar tech in some cases.  

As we progress towards a new reality, the value of both macro and micro strategy across a media activation will dramaticallyincrease in value.  

Data: Our historical focus has been, as an industry, on 3rd party data. Essentially, data aggregated from multiple sources is then sold to marketers and/or marketing technology providers to enhance their ad targeting.  

The 3rd party data will remain, although it will become less valuable than today.  

Today that 3rd party data has allowed for near-perfect targeting based on the actions of users. In a cookieless world, 3rd party data will provide probabilistic data on macro audience trends.  

What Can I Do?

At this point, we are within a moment of flux. We arguably have 12-18 months in our current environment before shifting to a cookieless world becomes a reality.  

That said, adding an incremental focus on strategy will be vital in short to near-term. Also, identifying the organizational KPI’s that may be impacted, providing you with the ability to manage the potential changes internally.  

How is Time & Space Preparing? 

We have the luxury of working with industry leaders from the advertising technology and publisher environments. In collaboration with our partners, we are closely monitoring the evolution of the cookie.  

Over the next 8-10 months, we will be testing and evaluating alternatives to define a structure that will continue to provide valuable ad performance to our clients.  

What that solution will look like exactly remains out of focus at this point, as the industry as a whole rapidly evolves. We do, though, fully expect progression within the coming months that will provide ultimate clarity to the best path forward for marketers.