Google made headlines in June of this year by announcing it had delayed its ban of third-party cookies on Chrome, from 2022 to sometime in 2023. When that day finally comes it will be the end of the third-party cookie as we know it, with all other internet browsers already having removed them from their systems long ago.
While Google’s delay might come as a relief for the unprepared, much of the Ad and MarTech industries say they are already prepared to move on from the cookie tracking era. Some have been ready for years now. After all, cookies were never really meant to be used in complex and convoluted programmatic ad systems in the first place.
It’s just a matter of waiting for Google to pull the trigger and move on. So, why the delay? What would happen if Google suddenly decided to drop all third-party cookies today? How would it, and the rest of the digital marketing and advertising landscapes, be impacted?
Google Controls the Narrative; Amazon and AdTech Suffer
Google makes an enormous amount of money from its endless supply of ad revenue streams. It can’t do anything to jeopardize those streams, which is why it’s holding off on killing the third-party cookie until it can come up with a new business model to funnel those marketing dollars right back to itself.
Amazon and other major AdTech players (Liveramp (RAMP), The TradeDesk (TTD), Oracle (ORCL), etc.) stand to lose a lot of revenue if the cookie went away completely today since they all rely so heavily on programmatic advertising to uphold lucrative verticals within their business models. After all, programmatic technologies stole the ad dollars that media brands spent decades, and even centuries, building.
Apple Continues its Privacy Dance
Apple wouldn’t be directly affected as much as other big tech, since it has positioned itself wisely, driving revenue mostly from hardware, media, and app sales. When adtech pivots on “privacy,” it’s these app developers that suffer. So, even though Apple doesn’t sell user data directly to third parties, it does still benefit from app providers tracking businesses by way of targeted advertising. Apple knows the death of the cookie would hurt its rivals much more than it would hurt itself, however, which is part of their motivation to push for user privacy industry-wide.
And Facebook Strengthens Its Monopoly
Simply put, Facebook wants all other ad channels to go away, including programmatic and, thus, third-party cookies. Facebook is the media company, the data broker, and the ad platform all rolled up into a marketer’s wet dream (cue Zuckersmirk). Although Facebook gathers a treasure trove of information using third-party cookies, it can ultimately fall back entirely on its own platform to continue selling ads in your newsfeed.
While Marketers Innovate
Shrewd B2B marketers are already hard at work looking for ways to replace the cookie while still providing meaningful and personalized advertising experiences for businesses. If the third-party cookie demise were to happen today, though, the industry would lose its ability to target specific individuals and campaign performance would drop dramatically.
Essentially everyone who has ever browsed the internet, whether they like it or not, has had many aspects of their online behaviors tracked since the first time they opened a webpage. Without cookies, the total volume of businesses that marketers would be able to reach would drop dramatically. But, in a post-consent world, even with a smaller audience pool, marketers would have access to much more accurate data than before to drive successful advertising campaigns.
This is why AdTech platforms are putting consent at the forefront of their future business models and building it directly into their systems. The industry knows there is more value in gaining consent than blindly following people around the internet through convoluted ad tracking technologies. Consent will ultimately result in more cost-effective advertising for marketers, as well as more relevant experiences for businesses.
Digital TV Finally Has Its Heyday
With huge budgets leftover from cookie-based targeting efforts, where is all the revenue going to drop? The answer is connected (or digital) TV. Streaming services and DTV are the next hotbeds that marketers are already starting to invest in. Since these platforms are already built on user logins (often via email), marketers can easily leverage user-level targeting information and business behavior for personalized advertising purposes. As the world’s broadcast TV viewership moves to DTV, capitalizing on this ad market is the next logical step for marketers to innovate in a post-cookie world.
And, Publishers, Businesses, and Advertisers Realign
Media publishers would be the big winners if cookies were to be done away with today. Without cookies, the value of media producers’ readership is finally returned to the media owner. No longer would users be bombarded with ads completely unrelated to the content they are there to see, and the value of the media sources’ readership is once again theirs to capitalize on.
Suddenly, what publishers write, create, and post on their website matters again, and the economic incentives are no longer just to drive traffic at all costs. What they’re producing, and its quality is what would again determine the loyalty of their readership, the value of their media to advertisers, and the overall success of their site.
A world without third-party cookies would help realign the triangle between publishers, businesses, and advertisers. It would help fix incentives and repair the relationship of writers to informative, entertaining, and valuable content. Users would better enjoy the media they consume on the internet without having to worry about any sort of behind-the-scenes manipulation by advertisers or publishers.
The majority of us are and have been ready for cookies to be put to bed for quite some time. It just makes sense. The Ad and MarTech industries would innovate, businesses would have control over their privacy, and publishers would once again regain the economic value of their readership.
It’s time to move on. Cookies used for tracking are stupidly complex and were never meant to be used for this purpose, anyway. As advertisers and publishers, let’s do better!
Dwight Gorall is the founder and CEO of NetWise, a provider of B2B marketing data services. Prior to NetWise, he held executive positions at LexisNexis Risk Solutions/Seisint, Daleen Technologies, Motorola and AT&T.Favorite