Chrome Cookie Changes to Affect All—Not Just the Top Line

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Photo by Chris Ried.

Game of Thrones is about to end its reign on Sunday night television, and as I’m watching, I can’t help but notice a parallel to ad tech. It’s not my proudest moment. Still, one of the conceits in the series is that while there’s a war for power among the houses, it’s a war among elites.

The person on the ground doesn’t care if House Targaryen, House Stark, or God forbid House Greyjoy wins the war for the throne as their life day to day is unaffected.

Of course, they’re wrong. Alliances and blockades meant those in northern Winterfell went hungry when there were strains with Lannisters. It’s meant those on the shores of the Iron Island were always in danger because of the Greyjoy propensity for warring with other houses. But still, the average person didn’t think it impacted them, only truly understanding the impact when it was too late.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been meeting with Ad Ops teams at publishers and brands, with email marketers, and with display advertising teams, and I asked them their thoughts about ITP 2.2 and Google Chrome changes. Last week, Google announced significant changes to how Chrome will handle cookies. The implication for marketers is that the role of third-party cookies, long considered to be the pathway to marketing and remarketing across the digital ecosystem, will be severely changed. Now, practitioners who leaned on third-party data to identity and leverage intent will have to look elsewhere to run robust marketing programs. Google is following the path blazed by Apple (ITP/Safari) and Firefox in deprecating the role of cookies.

The reactions of ad tech professionals with whom I’ve discussed Chrome’s latest changes have mirrored those of people living in Dorne who aren’t named Martell hearing that Oberyn was killed by Gregor Clegane: They really don’t think it impacts them. But eventually the ships come for Dorne, just like the Chrome changes will come to affect our jobs.

Google’s latest Chrome changes may sound abstract to those of us who are on the ground doing digital ad work, but they will soon come to dominate our industry. If you work in display advertising at a brand and read the announcement, I’m sure you know at some point the dynamics of the ecosystem will change. But this is going to be big — your entire set of knowledge will soon be different. You’ll need to learn how first-party data looks, is captured, and how to connect first-party data that represents intent to first-party stable identifiers like email. That’s very different than what you do now, and if you don’t learn the new skills, you’ll be defeated by a rival house that understands their first-party data assets and knows how to use them as a weapon to survive our own version of the whitewalkers: the cookie apocalypse.

If you work in ad ops at a publisher, don’t sit back and wait for your boss to tell you to take action. Rise up to the occasion by immersing yourself in understanding how your publisher collects first-party data: From whom do they have tags? What do they do with that data? What stable IDs does your publisher have? Have they been building up an email list? You may have to switch alliances in this new world. It’s much easier to be accepted into a new kingdom if you can help allies succeed. We must understand the assets publishers have at their fingertips and illuminate how they can help publishers to thrive in a cookie-challenged world.

The vast majority of employees in our industry have no voice over policies like Chrome changes, and that’s not right. But don’t mistake not being given agency in the decisions that guide the industry with not having to prepare for them.

This industry is about to see one of the biggest shakeups to happen in recent memory. Third-party data and subpar on-boarding models that have unduly benefited subpar publishers are coming to an end. The publishers who have convinced their audiences to sign up for a personal connection will be in a prime position if they play their cards right. It’s up to you to help them navigate our own game of thrones.

Kerel is the Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at LiveIntent. He currently leads the marketing team and works closely with sales, product, engineering and customer success to create awareness and generate leads for key products and features. Kerel has 20 years of digital media experience building and leading Advertising Operations, Account Management, Partnerships & Product Marketing teams. Prior to LiveIntent, Kerel Cooper held positions at Advance Digital as the Senior Director Ad Platform Strategies and JupiterMedia as Director of Advertising Operations. Kerel has his Bachelor’s degree in Management Science/Marketing from Kean University and a MBA from Regis University.