30 second summary:

  • Since Google announced in January that Chrome would phase out the technology in two years, marketers, publishers, agencies, and data owners have struggled to prepare for this profound shift.
  • Many marketing tech companies rely on the faceless computations of cookie-based tracking, targeting, and attribution.
  • Michael Hussey, President of StatSocial, explains how the demise of the cookie creates opportunities for consumers and data-dependent organizations.

COVID-19 is still dominating the headlines in the industry, but within the digital marketing industry, the biggest story remains the impending demise of third-party tracking cookies. Since Google announced in January that Chrome would phase out the technology in two years, marketers, publishers, agencies, and data owners have struggled to prepare for this profound shift.

It was always imperfect, but the cookie evolved into a currency that enabled various marketers to understand online and offline behavior and conduct business based on it. Evidence that a digital advertising campaign drove brand awareness, new sales, store visits, etc., was made possible, for example, by synchronizing cookies between different data providers (e.g. the household who saw a Yoplait yogurt ad actually buy more yogurt ?). This, in turn, gave marketers the confidence to invest in campaigns that were proven to provide sales and brand boost.

Many marketing tech companies rely on the faceless computations of cookie-based tracking, targeting, and attribution. However, once the general public understood how their data was traded and used, their concerns inspired regulators enough to draft regulations like GDPR and CCPA. Google’s decision to remove the cookie will make it easier to deal with regulators, but it will also force many companies that have benefited from the ecosystem to rethink their own data practices from the ground up.

The downfall of the cookie presents us with an opportunity – both for consumers and for data-dependent organizations. What emerges to replace the cookie in the coming years should result in a more accurate, honest, and valuable digital ecosystem. Here’s why:

What will change for the consumer?

From the consumer’s point of view, the main problem with cookies is a lack of transparency about their origin. Without the ability to know the data source, there was generally no point in permanently turning off cookie tracking. The most promising new identity solutions are built on PII-based structures, which greatly simplify the management of consumer consent and allow greater accountability throughout the value exchange.

To resolve this, CCPA is now making a radical change. Instead of anonymous identity diagrams that cannot be managed and managed for consumer opt-outs, the future of online identity will be tied to some form of personally identifiable information. Google already works this way because it knows your name and Gmail address and can link all communications, analytics and advertising to actual people. Consumers have given them this information in exchange for their free services.

And now the broader digital ecosystem is moving in the same direction. Publishers, marketers, data companies and agencies are legally required to provide identity solutions to deliver their services while protecting consumers who want to both participate and those who want a permanent opt-out. This is analogous to the deactivation of marketing e-mails by the CAN-SPAM law, a regulation with which unwanted e-mails were largely effectively reduced. Expect the same in the future for all other forms of digital marketing.

A brighter future for marketing tech companies

While the new rules and requirements to protect consumer data will be stricter and more costly for marketers, media and data companies, the new system will produce better results for all of marketing technology.

Better data, analysis, insights, attribution models and higher quality target groups are introduced. This is why Google has waited so long for this move because it is an identity solution (supported by billions of people with a Gmail address). was always a competitive advantage that they shared with some other market leaders (e.g. Facebook).

As true identity solutions become the new standard and easier to use, there are new ways to improve the playing field for brands and those outside the walled gardens. Costly investments will be required, but this is ultimately a win-win for both consumers and the marketing technology ecosystem. At the moment there is a lot of room for new ideas and innovations and we should all adjust to that.

Michael Hussey is President of StatSocial, an earned audience intelligence platform.