Opportunity knocks with demise of third-party cookies

carolyn bondiDid you know that the number of car accidents following lockdown #1 shot up? The reason for this is quite simple. When many of us were hunkered down at home we literally forgot how to drive. Our ability diminished over time. And even now with many of us still only driving places when absolutely necessary the number of near misses I see on the road is quite alarming.

So, what’s all this got to do with third party cookies? Well, the same principle applies. Have marketers become so reliant on programmatic that they have forgotten the fundamentals of good old-fashioned targeting – putting the hard yards in and establishing a value exchange?

The demise of the third-party cookie should be viewed as an opportunity; a reset button. It means that we can do better by consumers. Instead of taking the route of least resistance and letting the adtech do all of the talking (don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive tech fan) we can once again dust off our strategic and creative skills and devise better contextualised marketing that is truly omnichannel.

The best marketing has never just been one channel, we need to surround and engage by using a blend of media that best suits the customer. We still have first and second party data – we have control over this and we can use it to monitor and react in realtime to individual behaviour. Learn about their intentions, the things they keep going back to, understand if something is getting in the way or if we just need to be more clever with our touchpoints and nudges. And now, of course, we have the technology at our fingertips to do it.

Cast your mind back to 2005 and what became coined the ‘Summer of Discontent’. This was the tipping point for “junk mail” when consumers made it very clear that they weren’t happy about poorly targeted mail.

Doomsayers rang the death knell for the channel and yet fast forward two decades and direct mail is now the most trusted form of advertising. Advertisers had to take stock and reassess what makes direct mail valuable; it harks back to the value exchange.

The lessons of yesteryear can often be the most pertinent. In retail, for example, the whole concept of omnichannel is to recreate the 1950s cornershop experience where shopkeepers knew their customers and provided a personalised service.

As retail changed that personalisation was lost, but through the magic of technology and shrewd planning we can provide that one-to-one feeling, making customers feel valued. And it doesn’t involve following them round the Internet, much like sending mailer after mailer after mailer (often two of the same landing on the doormat in one day) proved to be a total turn off of consumers.

It is clear, customers are happy to give you their data and their permission on the condition that something of perceived value is provided in return – and this is what is happening online. We need to get to a place where users have more privacy and the web works better.

The reason that we have got to where we are today is that the web has provided an amazing window into consumers’ lives and behaviours, but it has all become too intrusive. However, the good news is that this richness won’t be lost.

Already, new approaches are being put forward such as the emergence of Google’s FLoC (Federation of Learning Cohorts) which will put people into groups based on similar browsing behaviours, meaning that only “cohort IDs” and not individual user IDs will be used.

Initial trials are positive – advertisers using FLoC generated a nearly 350% improvement in ad recall and an almost 70% improvement in precision over a random assignment of users to cohorts. The new FLoC mechanism has been compared to cookie-based audiences and a 95% efficiency has been reported.

Inevitably as third-party cookies are phased out, we’ll see innovation and experimentation come to the fore, which is ultimately what moves the industry forward. So, we say “farewell third party cookies”, and “hello to opportunity”.

Carolyn Bondi is co-founder of The Thread Team

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