3934 S Corbett Ave.
Portland, OR 97239

(503) 231-3086


Content Marketing // July 28th, 2021

The Cookies Are Burning, Now What?

Written by Maxwell

The world of cookie-based data tracking is in the midst of a seismic shift. This change reclaims some digital privacy for consumers but presents a major challenge for digital marketers who use data and analytics to track behavior.

“Cookies” are small text files that track how individual consumers engage with content in the digital world. This is a great dive on the topic if you want to learn more. Cookies, as we now know, pose a variety of privacy issues; there are also many benefits. Why they’re good for you as a user – cookies allow websites to customize offerings to your interests, remember your login information, what you left in your cart, and much more. Why they’re good for you as a marketer – the information gained via cookies provides the ability to measure and prove the effectiveness of digital ads, as well as a means of targeting content directly to individuals.

The price of privacy

Because cookies track individuals’ purchases and responsiveness to ads, they have become marketers’ Holy Grail. Competition for this information led to an explosion of Ad Tech measurement tools in the rush to monetize this valuable data, while regulation was nearly non-existent. The result was massive, digital tracking of the consumers with little public awareness. Everything from browsing history, to what’s on your smart TV screen, to credit and loyalty card purchasing habits was tracked. Now you understand how Target seemed to know you were pregnant even before your partner did 😉

The Cambridge Analytica scandal shined a light on what was happening, and led to passage of data privacy laws, most notably GDPR law in Europe and CCPA in California, which limit how Ad Tech and data companies can collect and use consumer information.

Now, the two biggest tech players, Apple and Google, are leading the change and setting new privacy standards for the entire tech industry. Google announced it’s sun setting third-party cookies last year (this was pushed until the end of 2023). Apple is another walled garden that is implementing their own privacy updates, most notably IOS 14.5 and IOS 15, which limit apps’ ability to track your every move without permission was well as marketer’s ability to see relevant engagement data.

These changes took away the ability for digital advertisers and marketers to directly target individual users and precisely measure effectiveness and attribution of ads. The $19 billion per year third party data industry is now scrambling to find alternative revenue streams.

So, what’s next?

There is consensus within the industry that the death of the third-party cookie will create a shift in importance from targeting and data, to ad creative and value provided to the consumer. While no one really knows for sure, campaign strategies moving forward will likely include the below tactics and practices:

  • Using contextual and emotional-based targeting
  • Focusing on quality creative which drives emotional appeal
  • Utilizing intent-based advertising tactics such as search ads
  • Creating impactful content that provides consumers with value and relevancy
  • Gathering and implementing first-party data

We are already identifying new trends for marketers because of these changes. Ecommerce companies are offering discounts in exchange for your email address, brands creating their own apps, and websites requiring accounts to read the news are all efforts to gather usable first-party data.

The ever-changing climate of digital advertising requires brands to be nimble and adaptive; finding success sans cookies is just the next challenge. Stay tuned for a in-depth guide on how to adopt new tactics, implement a wholistic strategy to fill the void, and come out on top in the new cookie-less world.