On January 14, 2020, Google announced that they plan to phase out support for the third-party cookie in Chrome over the next two years — and subsequently sent the digital marketing industry into a tailspin.
Since then, our industry has systematically gone through the Five Stages of Grief; it started with denial, moved to anger, then there was bargaining, many were depressed and now, finally, we’ve moved to acceptance. While we’ve begun to accept our cookie-less, third-party future, what that future looks like is still undefined.
This blog series is meant to be an ongoing narrative that distills the complex conversations happening in our space into digestible takeaways. Here are three things to know now:
1. Safari’s ITP Can’t Be Ignored
Safari handles approximately 16% of the world’s internet traffic and about 47% of North America’s mobile traffic. Since ITP was first introduced in 2017, it has become progressively better at blocking the third-party technologies used to identify and track its users. ITP has had many iterations and continues to be updated to thwart industries’ attempts to circumvent the technology and this, combined with its use of machine learning to identify technologies, makes it difficult to speak to.
At Miles, we are routinely monitoring the impacts we see from ITP on our clients’ marketing efforts, and as ITP matures its effects have increased significantly. When looking at log files, we look at our ability to set a cookie on a user’s device when they see a marketing message; it’s currently at about 80% of exposed user — meaning that we are blind to attribution, post-view metrics and conversions on about 20% of our digital marketing. Safari accounts for about 85% of this data loss.
This means that as you look at the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts, you are getting less data back, likely resulting in less reported conversions and a lower conversion rate than in previous years. As this trend continues, you’ll need to work with your agencies to re-establish benchmarks and work with stakeholders on shifting KPIs and targets for your marketing efforts.
Outside of just the reporting, the ability to target data-driven audiences on Safari is extremely limited outside of platforms like Google and Facebook. We recommend evaluating how important iOS users are to your digital marketing strategy and setting a specific strategy to reach this audience.
If you are looking for more information on ITP, I recommend MightyHive’s privacy report, which can be downloaded here: https://mightyhive.com/digital-privacy-report/. Apologies for the lead form, but without third-party data many are turning to “vintage” audience-building techniques.
2. The Latest on Google’s Privacy Sandbox
Google’s announcement to remove third-party cookie support was coupled with a promotion of their “Privacy Sandbox,” which is Google’s attempt to shard web identity by keeping data on your device in the browser rather than sending it back to a server to process. It also increases Google’s dominance in the industry, but that’s a topic for another day.
The current proposal has a few different elements, including some that are widely accepted by privacy advocates such as the Trust API and Privacy Pass used to thwart digital fingerprinting. Then there are other aspects that have drawn wide criticisms such as Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) and PIGIN, which has already been abandoned for TURTLE DOVE.
In a later post on privacy I’ll plan to go into more depth on Google’s Privacy Sandbox, but in the meantime I recommend checking out the article from the privacy organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF): https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/08/dont-play-googles-privacy-sandbox-1. While it’s a little dated, I find it to provide a great primer on the different elements.
3. Trends to Watch
At any point of time there are numerous trends, laws and changes happening in this space. Below is a hit list of some of the topics we are keeping a close eye on:
- Privacy Legislation: Federally, COPRA is shaping into the major initiative for digital privacy for the U.S. and where the industry is focused. While some states are still drafting their own legislation, the industry is hoping to see a federal law passed that we can adhere to rather than being hamstrung by a vast array of conflicting laws.
- Identity Resolution: ID5, TrustX, DigitTrust and LiveRamp are just a few of the names you may see on this topic. Cookies have always posed problems, and even before their demise started these groups were working on a better ID strategy. While most still use third-party cookies today, the goal is for them to be API driven in the future — but it will take cooperation and participation from sites with first-party identity such as publishers.
- Publishers: Speaking of publishers, traditional news publishers are gaining a renewed importance in the digital marketing space. Paywalls and sign-in required access has given these sites a plethora of first party data that can be shared across their properties and activated on other digital platforms such as Facebook’s custom audiences. Brands like Vox, The Washington Post and Business Insider have already announced and released first-party data products to marketers this year, and more publishers are working to release products.
- Contextual Targeting: Contextual first-party data is the hot new thing, especially when combined with machine learning and AI. Understanding how a consumer is interacting with content on publisher sites and the content they are consuming (once the way all media targeted) is back and bigger than ever. Look for shifts to targeting by context rather than audience to become the new normal over the next year.