What does the post cookie world mean for marketers?

Sonal Patel
By Sonal Patel | 24 July 2020

Sonal Patel is managing director, SEA at Quantcast.

You’ve probably heard by now that the cookie apocalypse is coming and that it will be a watershed moment for the entire internet. What is less understood is how marketers and publishers can operate in this new ecosystem to still get a return on marketing investment and generate sustainable revenues. 

What is the best way forward? To understand the path ahead, we need to look at why the path was built and where it is heading.

Google Chrome announced in January 2020 the timeline for making cookies obsolete would happen within about two years.  For Chrome users, third party cookies will eventually be blocked, and new privacy measures will be introduced. This is in line with what we have seen from Firefox (with just 4% Australian market share) and Apple’s Safari (with 32% share), but Chrome represents more than 53% of all browser market share in Australia, which makes it a very important shift. 

This also means that in Australia, where we have multiple device users, a cookie-less world will further curtail cross-device targeting across desktops, mobile phones and tablets.

Why are cookies so important? 
Cookies build up information which allow marketers to advertise to consumers. It’s this provision that has created the ad-funded content economic model.


The entire ad ecosystem is underpinned by the use of cookies and multiple tech companies have active business models within this ad ecosystem. This is why the core of the internet will be impacted and, given the scale and dominance of Google, a cookie-less Chrome will have far reaching implications on the internet as we know it.

Even today, the ad tech ecosystem is fragmented, as evidenced by the ad tech lumascape, which illustrates the vast number of companies that service internet advertising and leverage cookies and cookie matching to fund the ecosystem. Many involved have reason to want to preserve it. The challenge of the post-cookie world is not about preserving the fragmented ecosystem of ad tech, it’s about preserving the ad funded content economic model. 

A publisher’s prediction of yield for programmatic is leveraged by the use of data relevancy for a marketer to continue to spend with that publisher. If cookies go away, the knock-on effect will see either higher ad density for users, or publishers will have no choice but to move to paywall models. In all cases the consumer loses, and marketers end up with higher ROI costs.

How do marketers operate  in a post cookie era? 
There are three recommended ways marketers for marketers to operate in the new era:

  1. Focus on measurement rather than just targeting alone
  2. Own your data and the consumer relationship
  3. Go direct to publishers and create better data utilisation.

Without cookies, marketers will have less signals to assess that they are targeting the right audience.  Yet, how marketers measure attention will be critical in supporting the economic model. Marketers will want to own their own first party data and use it for media activation. Therefore, it’s likely that we will see more marketers moving to an in-house data model and also begin to see digital transformation acceleration because of the impact of COVID-19.

Building a first party relationship with your customer will be even more important in order to understand your audience and their ever-changing behaviour as third party cookies disappear. This is why we will see marketers wanting direct relationships with publishers to determine the impact of their marketing spend to direct sales.

In addition, partners that offer targeting solutions activated by first party data and use sophisticated audience modelling solutions will become a gateway to reaching relevant audiences in the post-cookie era.

Another important area for marketers to focus on is the continued need to better understand their ever-changing audience. Identifying audiences based on their interests will be paramount for marketers to scale their campaigns using real-time buying signals and can help provide measurable insights. This will require huge data processing capabilities and machine learning technology to enable marketers to leverage this meaningful data.

As marketers think about the post-cookie world, they need to ask the right questions of their agencies, platform partners and ultimately, deeply understand consumers.

So what questions should marketers be asking of their partners?

  •       What is your vision for your business… and mine?
  •       What is your path to continued innovation?
  •       How do you bring media planning and activation together through real-time data and how actionable is this?

The future is unknown but by working with a strong combination of your agency, platform partner and understanding their data products and innovation, marketers will achieve a better path to success than those who are not preparing for a world without cookies.

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