Third-party Cookies, The Future is Here
The future is here. As the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2023, another clock gets set into motion: the beginning of the end of third-party cookies.
Google’s long-debated cookie depreciation will begin in January incrementally and support for them will be gone by the end of the year. While anyone tracking this environment has seen delays and deadlines pushed before, we’re confident that this is truly the end.
As such, it makes a piece like this – predicting what’s going to happen in 2024 – especially meaningful… and fun. The advertising world will be significantly different when our 2025 predictions come around. We should expect some interesting and norm-challenging innovations in 2024.
Here are five things we’re extremely bullish about.
Measurement will break in a lot of places in 2024
Get ready for data errors across the board. Programmatic measurement was built for a world that will cease to exist with the demise of 3rd party cookies. Both the sell and buy sides will have to scramble to find solutions to help scale and support campaign objectives while programmatic capabilities get built anew.
Prepare for cookieflation
That dwindling cookied traffic will only increase in cost as supply and demand head in opposite directions. Publishers will look to maximize their last chance at cookied revenue and advertisers should expect to overpay for that remaining amount of cookied inventory. Of course, publishers will also seek to monetize their authenticated users and first-party data, as they should. Going forward unaddressable or cookieless inventory will be the norm not the exception for monetization and third-party cookied supply will play the role of incremental revenue. While now is the perfect time to invest in cookieless inventory to prepare for the inevitable future, few except performance marketers and brands with significant first-party data are taking that long-term approach. Complicating matters is that many systems are too immature for cookieless transactions right now.
The IP address will be the next signal on the chopping block
When it rains, it pours. Whether it’s for reasons of regulation, benevolent concern for consumer privacy or ways to strengthen their position in the advertising industry matters not; Google and Apple are already well into their next change that will minimize the unfettered transfer of data between buyers and sellers. Safari blocks IP addresses by default and Google has unveiled an IP Protection tool that blocks third-party tech vendors. Google Analytics no longer collects IP address data, and both tech giants are giving consumers more tools to hide their addresses on mobile devices. The advertising industry will need to embrace flexibility and experimentation as publishers will continue to explore all options to make a fair dollar for content creation.
The only way forward is through a Swiss Army knife strategy
Publishers can no longer depend on cookied traffic alone; they must diversify their revenue streams. In truth, they should already have done that, but there’s no excuse now. Publishers looking to chart a path to monetization outside of third-party cookies will need to quickly implement alternative identifiers, Unified ID, first-party solutions, and contextual approaches to replace the revenue lost from declining 3rd party cookies.
Robots will eat your campaign
Emerging AI technology and large language models (LLMs) will power the next generation of programmatic advertising. They will be specifically useful in challenging areas like segmentation and optimization. Ultimately, AI will help drive business outcomes. However, the industry needs to ensure the technology is used correctly. There are, as in other industries, ethical concerns about how these technologies affect consumer privacy, lest we end up in the same situation as we are now with first-party cookies being used in ways that were never intended.
While I understand that advertisers and publishers have dreaded this moment for several years, the train has left the station, and no amount of hand-wringing will bring third-party cookies back. But there is a bright side if you have the right attitude and approach. This arduous event will create an opportunity for companies to develop new ways of reaching audiences and measuring efficacy.
In ad tech change is a constant; we’ve had to continuously adapt to new regulations and processes but one thing is clear for 2024, the more prepared and diversified you are, the more upside you will achieve.