Collaboration Key as the Cookie (Finally) Crumbles

Robert Millett, Melbourne Head of Digital at Starcom Australia
By Robert Millett, Melbourne Head of Digital at Starcom Australia | 20 June 2024
Rob Millett.

As we stand at the threshold of a new era in digital marketing, the imminent obliteration of third-party cookies is causing quite a stir. Google's latest delay has rekindled the chatter, but it changes nothing. Agencies, publishers, and marketers should already be well advanced in their plans. The ‘cookieless future’ isn’t near, it’s already here, and has been for some time.  

The likes of Firefox and Safari have been blocking third-party cookies for several years, while Chrome this year began disabling one per cent of users globally. Given that, according to Statcounter,  Safari and Firefox account for a combined 31.2% of the Australian browser market, advertisers have already been operating within an ecosystem with substantial blind spots. Chrome’s plans, and their respective 56% market share, simply means the issue can no longer be circumvented nor ignored.

This transition marks a pivotal moment in the advertising industry – possibly the most significant since the birth of the internet itself. The ramifications, further compounded by impending privacy regulations, are wide ranging and will have profound implications across targeting, creative delivery, activation, optimisation, and measurement. Perhaps the biggest challenge for us as an industry to solve is the growing disconnect between consumers’ increasing worries about data privacy, opposed with their increasing expectation for personalised experiences.

The ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have Nots’

A recent eConsultancy report found that just 8% of markers feel fully prepared for third-party cookie deprecation, and the repeated delays to Google’s plans have not helped with the sense of uncertainty and apathy that exists amongst many.

For advertisers, the gap between the ‘haves’ (those with advanced data strategies, large consented and enriched first-party data sets and privacy enhancing technology) and the ‘have-nots’ will explode. The ‘have-nots’ will likely regress in terms of their maturity and may find themselves relying heavily on contextual strategies. The ‘haves’ will enjoy sophisticated and personalised omnichannel conversations with both existing and prospective customers – drawing share from those less prepared.  

Considering all this, it is important we view third-party cookie deprecation not as a threat, but as an opportunity. We must see it as a catalyst to foster a more privacy-centric, robust, premium, and innovative industry.

A Co-Operative Approach

This will only happen if we all work together. This is not a time for self-serving approaches; it is a time for collaboration. At Starcom, we’re committed to developing agnostic, privacy first, interoperable solutions that maximise efficiency and scale whilst enabling our client’s full ownership of their data.

In the cookieless era, first-party data will provide the most reliable signals. Those who succeed will be the ones who harness this data. But again, it comes back to collaboration. Don’t be guarded with your data. Seek to find synergies with other brands, data sets and partners to share (in a privacy first way, of course), so you gain reciprocal benefits.

Even if you don’t have much first-party data currently, never fear! All brands should be looking for ways to not only drive exposure of their ads but also create engaging experiences. By creating this value exchange with consumers, it opens the opportunity to request and collect their consented data (zero party data aka gold dust!).

Finding the Right Solution

Finally, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. This is why, at Starcom, we’re currently rolling out ‘Cookieless Impact Assessments’ (CIAs) across all our clients. These customised CIA’s will outline the specific operational impact of third-party cookie deprecation on each client and design initiatives across technology, measurement, targeting and privacy to preserve and enhance capability.

While you can’t bury your head in the sand, the cookieless future should not be seen as a dystopian nightmare but as a transformative opportunity for the digital advertising industry. The deprecation of third-party cookies necessitates a shift towards privacy-centric strategies and a re-evaluation of data practices, but it also provides a chance to redefine the industry’s approach to personalisation and consumer engagement. The time to act is now and your agency should be helping guide you through this process.

This transition isn't solely a technological challenge but a call for industry-wide collaboration. It's a chance to create more robust and innovative solutions, driven by first-party data and enriched by co-operative efforts. The road ahead may be uncharted, but with a collective approach, we can confidently navigate this new terrain.

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