As a long time fan of the Marketoonist and as a travel writer with an online presence, I am interested in all things digital and all things marketing. As mom to two young kids, I adore the Cookie Monster. But that’s not the type of cookie we are talking about here, are we?
We are talking about the small text files on your devices that allow servers to know you better. They track your behavior on sites and deliver targeted ads and guess what, many people find that creepy and annoying. So we have privacy regulations like EU’s GDPR and our own California Consumer Privacy Act to name a few. More states are coming up with their own laws as I type. So it’s not a surprise that Google plans to remove third-party cookies from its Chrome browser (which accounts for more than 60% of global internet use) by 2022, following in the heels of Firefox and Safari.
But first, here’s some good news from CampaignLive.com. “The digital advertising industry enters 2021 in a position of strength. Spikes in digital media consumption and ecommerce meant that digital advertising bucked global downturns across most advertising formats in 2020. As linear adspend fell by 18%, digital formats (search, video, social, banners) grew by 8% in 2020, lifting digital’s share of global advertising to 59%, according to Magna’s December report. But with a bigger share of the pie, the requirement for the digital ad industry to address how it will operate in a stricter privacy environment is now critical. Apple’s opt-in requirement for IDFA (ID for Advertisers) will come into force within the next few months, and Google Chrome will end support for third-party cookies by the end of the year.”
If you are wondering, “the IDFA is a randomly generated code that Apple assigns to a device. App developers use this code in audience targeting and to track the performance of ads across different apps and devices.”
Now let’s go back to the cookie or the lack thereof. Google has an alternative pathway called the Privacy Sandbox which will set the standards of ad targeting and measurement for the ad industry. It will rely on anonymized signals, not cookies, to get to the bottom of a particular user’s browsing habits. But marketers with a multi-media marketing strategy that uses first-party data and contextual advertising will continue to create relevant content for consumers.
As Kat Warboys (ANZ Head of Marketing at HubSpot) says, “Retailers can consider strategies or software that can better leverage first-party data like contextual advertising. While third-party data allowed you to place ads directly in front of people who matched certain user profiles, contextual advertising allows you to circulate pay per click (PPC) ads on websites that rank for similar keywords as your ad. This way, if you’re selling sports apparel, your PPC ad could show up on sports-oriented websites.”
The slow but steady demises of third-party data means that if you don’t have a direct relationship with users, you won’t have access to their data. Mikael Holcombe-Scali, Senior Business Development Manager at Semasio talked to CPO Magazine and here’s what he had to say when asked if contextual marketing ensure consumer privacy and if yes, how? “Contextual marketing concerns itself with the context and meaning of advertising environments, not the behavioral patterns of online users. Thus, it presumes the user is relevant to the advertisement without ever relying on the user’s historic behavior.”
The reaction to this Sandbox has been mixed, with some not really affected by it, while others have questioned Google’s motives and subsequently made complaints. The latter has prompted U.K.’s competition watchdog, the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) to launch an investigation which will explore whether the Privacy Sandbox will “result in a greater monopoly of the online advertising space for Google.”
CMA’s probe in turn has resulted in this statement from a Google spokesperson – “Creating a more private web, while also enabling the publishers and advertisers who support the free and open internet, requires the industry to make major changes to the way digital advertising works. The Privacy Sandbox has been an open initiative since the beginning and we welcome the CMA’s involvement as we work to develop new proposals to underpin a healthy, ad-supported web without third-party cookies.”
Well, one thing is for sure. Online targeting, ad tracking and privacy regulations are changing, and so is digital advertising as a whole. It’s growing nicely, yes. But also changing rapidly as we have been propelled into a world of zoom meetings and remote offices. School has moved online, shopping is at a click of a button and our entertainment is largely OTT (Over The Top, or in other words, it is via streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max that deliver content over the internet).
All these trends, no matter how anticipated by the marketing industry, have been shifted into an accelerated mode by Covid-19, and so has the adspend in these areas. Data remains a hot-button topic but marketers that use data to make lives easier for people (not stalk them with ads and promotions) are the ones that will endure. It’s a fine balancing act for sure but not one that’s undoable.