Navigating the Post-Cookie Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities for Brands

Navigating the Post-Cookie Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities for Brands

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Google’s long-awaited post-cookie world is now here, with the company officially turning off cookies for 1% of Chrome users last month. The loss of third-party cookies means that brands will lose one of the most frequently used ways to identify potential target audiences on the open web.

Post-cookie, brands will have to find different ways to effectively reach their target audiences. Unless they adopt and test new solutions soon, they’re at risk of losing a significant amount of revenue as optimizing the new approaches will take time and will be much more difficult without cookie based approaches to compare to.

While many brands have been preparing for a post-cookie world since it was initially announced in early 2021, questions remain. For those who have held off or haven’t had the resources to prepare themselves, there are consequences. Some are hoping that timelines will slip further or legal injunctions will stop the whole thing. Betting on that feels like a risky strategy and one that stops those brands benefiting from newer more performant post-cookie strategies.

How Will This Impact Measurement?

One of the major questions facing brands is how they will measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. While activation will be covered by either smarter data-driven contextual or universal IDs, gaps remain when it comes to measurement and attribution. Currently, most brands are still using cookies for measurement and attribution, even when looking at the effectiveness of cookie-free targeting. The industry has been slow to test Google’s sandbox attribution reporting and there are several use cases possible with cookies that have not been addressed such as Multi Touch Attribution and multiple conversion sites. Many types of measurement, not linked to conversions, such as brand lift also use cookies to connect impressions to survey results. These products will need to be redesigned. Given this, the six months provided by Google feels like a short time window to get their approaches tested and validated against current standards.

As such, brands must quickly adjust their measurement and attribution strategies to adapt to this switch. They should consider potential knowledge gaps in rolling out contextual solutions and building a complete first-party database. While finding interim options may involve trial and error, it will ultimately improve long-term measurement accuracy.

Can It Be Scaled Effectively?

Another consideration for brands will be the scale of other options. At the moment, many of the new persistent IDs require an email login. This will likely reduce scale and increase CPMs as only sites with content worth giving your email address will have access to these IDs. For instance, a consumer might be more open to sharing their email and creating an account for a site they’re going to use frequently instead of a one-time visit.

However, if these sites truly are “quality impressions” the efficiency could actually increase as less money is spent with lower-quality sites. Made-for-advertising sites (MFAs) have come under the spotlight in recent months, the shift toward high-quality alternatives due to the cookie phaseout could reduce their prevalence.

It’s up to publishers to deliver an experience that consumers want to return to and to promote  the value of logging by creating a seamless experience. For brands, it’s important to deliver a highly relevant ad experience, delivering real value to consumers by providing relevant information based on the data gleaned from their identifying information. This will ensure that the industry can scale effectively in a post-cookie world.

Will This Solidify Walled Gardens?

The relationship between brands and walled gardens has been complex. While walled gardens offer a frictionless, 100% signed-in environment with built-in measurement tools, creative capabilities, and audience optimization, brands have hesitated due to transparency concerns and resistance to transferring data outside these ecosystems. With the phaseout of cookies, the benefits of walled gardens may now outweigh the downsides, offering data and targeting capabilities that brands are losing with Google. Brands must carefully assess whether working with these media giants is worth the potential continued dominance of walled gardens or if alternative options merit exploration.

How Will The CMA’s Ruling Impact The Rollout?

Since February 2022, Google has been working with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to address their concerns regarding the potential impact of removing cookies, specifically related to competition and data transparency concerns. While Google has been meeting the CMA’s legal commitments in its quarterly reporting, the most recent report outlined a number of concerns that need to be addressed before Google can enter the “standstill period.” This report shows that there are still many cases of insufficient testing of the solutions. Namely, testing shows that the solutions are not up to scratch and that it takes too much effort to test. If the industry does not test, there will be no way that these conditions can be satisfied, which will only push the deadline back. With agencies leaving it to platforms, and platforms incentivized to maintain the status quo, we might be in a stalemate, which will only lead to more frustration across the industry.

The phaseout of third-party cookies marks a turning point for advertising. Brands must choose alternative options for measurement and attribution, determining their stance on walled gardens. The fallout from this decision will shape the industry’s future, emphasizing the importance of sustainable choices for long-term success.

Amelia is the Chief Product Officer at Captify. Captify is the leading Search Intelligence Platform for the open web and the largest independent holder of search data outside of the walled gardens, connecting the real-time searches from over 2 billion devices globally.
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