5 ways to prepare for the upcoming changes to cookie targeting

February 16, 2021 | 5 minute read
Scott Kozub
Head of Audience Product, Oracle Advertising
Text Size 100%:

Cookie targeting is changing, and so is digital marketing. The deprecation of 3rd party cookies across the main web browsers has caused a stir in the digital industry as advertisers and brands work toward finding a replacement for targeting and measurement across the open internet.

But deprecating cookies is not just about changing the way we advertise online. It signals a larger movement to a consumer-friendly internet, and we're called to fall in line. We’re moving toward an online ecosystem that’s designed to better protect the privacy rights of consumers.

By doing so, the marketing industry has to undo many of the habits it has developed and the solutions it deploys to meet the moment. And despite these vast changes being a net positive, the question remains: How should marketers prepare for this new internet and the digital marketing environment it supports?

1. Understand all the challenges and forces at work

Many of the changes happening in the advertising industry are tied to growing privacy standards and regulations being implemented across the global landscape.

The General Data Protection Regulation in Europe has reshaped how advertisers collect and store personal data; and in the United States, the California Consumer Privacy Act plays a similar role. These regulations are part of a wider movement toward a consumer-centric internet, and advertisers must be aware of all the moving parts.

Another challenge facing the advertising industry amid the removal of cookies is maintaining publisher revenue. Cookies are an instrumental piece that allows publishers to sell and monetize their inventory. The solutions and approaches adopted in lieu of 3rd party cookies need to factor in this loss of revenue and deliver monetization opportunities equal to or better than before.

Finally, marketers continually seek to reach out and connect with consumers in meaningful ways. The old advertising adage of right message, right place, right time comes to mind here. How will advertisers be able to facilitate this goal without the traditional identifiers they’ve become accustomed to? And what will this mean for scale?

To appropriately plan for the deprecation of cookies, factor all of these challenges—and more—into the solutions and tactics you deploy.

2. Maximize 1st party data

In a cookie-free world, 1st party data is going to be crucial for targeting and marketing more broadly. The writing has been on the wall for 3rd party cookies for quite some time, so most brands have strengthened their focus on 1st party data collection. But now, the focus must shift to the various, innovative ways of activating it.

Brands can start by digitizing identity-rich systems such as their CRMs, using them to target audiences with consistent messaging across channels or build optimal prospecting segments based on their most loyal customers.

3. Focus on customer experience

Customer experience will become a critical competitive differentiator, even more so than it is today. In an environment without cookies, there’s heightened urgency to connect data to the right people. If you do it wrong, the experience suffers; but if you do it right, truly personalized experiences emerge, endearing consumers to brands and creating considerable equity and lifetime value in the process.

However, to get there, high-quality identity-resolution systems alongside integrated data assets are critical and must be positioned at the forefront. Since advertisers aren’t in control of all of a consumer’s touchpoints, the need for a comprehensive view of the consumer is necessary to deliver an optimal experience. This hunger for data to drive insights and better experiences is expected to increase when cookies erode.

We also can’t forget about brand safety when considering the importance of customer experience. This ensures suitable and scalable environments for advertisers and relevant experiences for consumers. The ability to align content to a consumer’s mindset makes all the difference when looking to make meaningful connections with viable prospects. Furthermore, by leveraging Contextual Intelligence to better associate people with environments that wouldn’t otherwise be selected, advertisers can benefit from a more connected experience. As we continue to innovate and find better ways to connect—which drives advocacy and makes brands “stickier”—we can increase our chances of building strong customer relationships that will last into the future.

4. Adopt a portfolio approach to targeting

There’s no silver-bullet solution that will replace the functionality of the cookie. Multiple solutions and approaches are necessary to take its place. We call this the portfolio approach to identity, and it’s intended to afford marketers the fidelity and scale to drive successful digital campaigns.

One such portfolio approach includes the three pillars of audiences, context, and measurement, but with some major caveats and innovation required.

Don’t be fooled. This approach doesn’t use audiences as we’ve historically known them in the open web, but rather, audience identifiers that are attached to real people and designed to operate in a consumer-centric ecosystem. This means that all the necessary boxes have been ticked to ensure safe targeting that doesn’t impinge on a consumer’s right to privacy but still affords marketers the right functionality.

Contextual intelligence technologies are also part of the portfolio approach, as context is already a suitably anonymous targeting method. It leverages page content and consumer mindset to deliver the precision and controls that marketers are looking for. However, context will need to evolve and take a more data-driven approach as marketers look to replicate some of the capabilities available through audience insights.

The final part of the portfolio approach is to incorporate objective measurement solutions that are built with a privacy-first approach to measuring media and outcomes across platforms and channels.

5. Implement a holistic data strategy

The convergence of advertising and marketing technology stacks has been discussed for years, but we’re now at the inflection point where the talk needs to progress to action. With the deprecation of 3rd party cookies, a holistic approach to data strategy can remove the silos entrenched by marketing and advertising needs.

There will be a greater reliance on 1st party data, which can be augmented and enriched with 3rd party data that adheres to all the necessary requirements surrounding its collection and activation. This fusion of data sources can’t happen unless there’s a holistic strategy in place that spans the width of the organization.

In lieu of such a strategy, brands and advertisers will severely limit the depth and breadth of data that they have access to and can activate. The more organizational silos that brands can break down, the more data they’ll have access to across teams and departments, which will facilitate unified customer experiences and improved business intelligence.

A better online ecosystem for everyone

The pursuit of a more consumer-friendly ecosystem is a net positive for everyone involved. Yes, there are significant challenges to overcome to achieve proper marketing functionality. But the end result will be an internet that serves everyone—consumers, marketers, publishers, advertisers, and technology vendors—better overall.


To read more about a cookie-constrained future, check out these posts:

Scott Kozub

Head of Audience Product, Oracle Advertising

Previous Post

Stop squandering your ad spend. Do this instead.

Laura Neely | 3 min read

Next Post

How to maximize lift measurement in 3 steps

Kori Wallace | 2 min read