Third-Party Cookies Are Dead. Good Riddance.

We’ve long held a belief at Verve that the third-party cookie is dead. Here’s why it’s not the end.

Google’s announcement to eliminate third-party cookies from its Chrome browser in two years is bad news for many marketers but has very little impact on current mobile in-app marketing. It represents a long-overdue change for digital advertising as a whole.

Death of the cookie

We’ve long-held a belief at Verve that the cookie is dead.

Mobile has been the primary user experience for years now and third-party cookies pose many obstacles when it comes to tracking campaigns. They also present a clear privacy issue given the lack of governance around data management. 

Our ecosystem has evolved and cookies represent the past

Upgrade For The Ad Ecosystem

Killing third-party cookies results in a major upgrade for the whole digital advertising ecosystem. (Although some seem to think that returning to old-school methods is the way forward. It’s not.)

Consumers are mostly unaware of the extent that cookies track their activity across the internet. Existing protocols don’t easily provide transparency in data usage or a framework for managing consent. The IAB’s attempt to provide a solution is messy given the nature of the problem. 

Cookies have been around for over 20 years and were not designed for the use cases that they are currently deployed for. 

There are cookie types that are genuinely useful, for example, session-based, first-party, etc.

Google’s changes target only third-party cookies, which are used by marketers to track consumer activity across websites and are the primary source of privacy problems. 

Cookie bouncing, a common technique to align cookies across websites in order to address the same consumer wherever they are, is highly inefficient. It causes long page load times due to heavy page content and is a major headache for marketers given the cost and management required for device graphs to align the signal. 

More importantly, third-party calls can be easily added to content and left there forever, unknowingly transmitting data to multiple parties long after a campaign ends. 

The conversation about rewriting the original rules and protocols on content transport has been ongoing for the last decade, with hindsight no one would have created cookies without some kind of controls around usage. 

Google Is Doing The Right Thing

Google’s announcement provides an additional forcing function for the whole ad industry to make changes that are long overdue. Privacy trends point toward clearer consumer disclosure and control and we all must be working to transition marketing strategies to reduce reliance on all third-party and sensitive data categories. 

Google’s decision buys us time but also sets a clear timeline to get this right as an industry. By not pushing a walled garden approach the search and advertising behemoth fosters collaboration to find a solution that both protects the consumer and creates the value exchange required for content to continue to be free.

Superior Mobile And Connected TV

The fastest-growing parts of the internet have nothing to do with cookies.

The future disappearance of third-party cookies won’t have an immediate impact on channels where consumers spend most of their time – mobile in-app and connected TV. Most consumers spend more time in these two “channels” compared to a browser, be it on desktop or mobile.

Mobile in-app represents the largest share of ad impressions and third-party cookies are useless there.

The mobile device ID (MAID) already solves many, if not most, of the problems inherent with cookies. MAID’s are universal and persistent, they have a consistent opt-out for privacy that is native to the device.

Most importantly, a mobile device ID is connected to an actual person who carries the device around with them.

The time for mobile is now and given the increase of fraudulent practices like cookie bombing, poor targeting and limited ROI due to some of the cookie matching problems, the industry has already voted by moving ad dollars away from cookies as the primary mode of transaction.

Device ID Everywhere?

One idea is to apply the mobile device ID approach across all devices and browsers. It would be managed natively at the device level allowing the device operating system to govern data access and usage to different providers. Only partners with explicit permissions to sensitive user and usage data can access it which is a huge improvement to consumer control over their privacy.

Until that becomes a reality, Verve has proposed an SDK solution as a governance layer to create a contract between the buyer, the seller and the consumer, in order to better control the flow of sensitive data in the ecosystem. In both cases there is a clear barrier to the collection and dissemination of sensitive data. 

Privacy And Monetization

Balancing privacy and the ability to monetize user attention is good for everyone.

It is clear that the value exchange of ads for free content on the internet is not going away. By providing a two-year timeline to come up with a new solution, Google made it clear that they don’t want to disrupt this value exchange. 

The players in the ad industry now have an opportunity to create a better cross-device measurement and targeting approach that respects consumer privacy, improves controls to govern how sensitive data are used in advertising and improves the efficiency of the advertising transaction in the process.

Brian Crook, CTO, Verve

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