Belinda Clark
Feb 20, 2024

How to prepare for a world without cookies

As Google plans to make third-party cookies obsolete for most users with the release of its Privacy Sandbox in July 2024, Belinda Clark from RAPP provides insights on how brands can proactively adapt their online advertising strategies today.

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

Cookies have been a fundamental component of online marketing since the invention of the internet. They allow cross-domain tracking and enable targeted one-to-one advertising, often with highly personalised messages. Individual brands and media platforms have owned and managed this data, but this approach no longer fits our new privacy-first world.

The internet’s solution to this problem is universal ID (often called Privacy Sandboxes), which allows users to manage their online data in one place and control who and when data is shared with others.

Google’s Privacy Sandbox is one of the most essential universal ID releases, given that almost 63% of global users prefer Chrome (closely followed by Safari at 20%).

Below is a breakdown of how it all works.

How will universal ID work for advertisers if brands no longer have access to third-party cookies?

Google says its Privacy Sandbox seeks to ‘reduce cross-site and cross-app tracking while helping to keep online content and services free for all’. In effect, Google is reducing advertisers’ ability to identify and re-target individuals wherever they are on the web. Instead, it allows consumers to house their digital identity within a single location (their Privacy Sandbox) and let the Sandbox decide when and where the information is shared.

It will allow advertisers to identify and target individuals or segments of individuals based on their interests and behaviours, but not in the same way as before. This will be strange, scary news for many brand marketers, as most are not set up for advertising this way.

But all is not lost. There are a couple of advertiser benefits to universal ID that brand marketers should take note of. One of the biggest is that universal ID has the potential to offer more relevant advertising for consumers. Google’s Privacy Sandbox uses machine learning to analyse user behaviour and interests, allowing advertisers to deliver more personalised and relevant ads based on cross-site behaviour and interests.

The other benefit is a better measurement of advertising activities. As a single digital identity, universal ID ensures more accurate campaign performance measurement. On top of the consumer benefits of better user privacy and trust, these advertiser benefits make universal ID an attractive proposition for those set up for it.

With six months, what can brand marketers do NOW to prepare for a cookie-less future?

Here are four top tips to get you going:

  • Start collecting and using first-party data in paid media.
  • Start conducting A/B tests on universal ID modules (like Google’s Privacy Sandbox) to ensure a smooth transition and shore up impact.
  • Create a shared ID solution with a few other providers to identify and target users similarly to third-party cookies.
  • Operate only within walled gardens (Google, Facebook, etc.).

Let’s dive into these one by one.

First-party data

It is no secret that the importance of first-party data is on the rise. And most agree that having an effective first-party data strategy will be crucial to success in the cookie-less world. However, most have yet to integrate first-party data into paid media advertising, meaning they’re not using first-party data effectively yet.

But how can first-party data help? Most importantly, it can make paid media dollars more effective by targeting known prospects and customers in paid media environments (rather than the traditional spray-and-pray approach).

It can also create look-a-like groups (based on first-party data audience insights) that allow media platforms to target people who show similar interests and behaviours to those who already buy. Ultimately, first-party data can reduce CPAs and increase ad dollars. But first-party data should be one piece of your final solution.

Universal ID

In addition to integrating first-party data into paid media, we recommend conducting A/B tests with universal ID modules. The primary purpose of universal ID is for individuals to be recognisable across the internet via their unique ID (which is controlled by their browser).

Most advertisers are still set up for third-party cookies, so testing the impact of universal ID and shoring up its impact will be vital in preparing for the future. Given the size of the Chrome user base (c.63% of global users), it will be critical to incorporate this into your paid media strategy.

It can future-proof any brand against a cookie-less world when used alongside first-party data.

Shared ID

The alternative to a universal ID is a shared ID solution where a user’s unique data is shared between a smaller group of platforms. For example, sharing first-party cookies between a brand and Google or between a brand and a few small media platforms.

This is a good option for those with a niche consumer base easily targeted within a smaller group of advertising platforms. It’s perfect when combined with first-party data or even a universal ID like Google Privacy Sandbox, as it increases your options for targeting the right consumer at the right time with the right message.

Operate only within walled gardens

Staying within known walled gardens such as Google Advertising or Facebook is also viable for those just starting or struggling with the concepts and investment required for first-party data.

It’s simple, streamlined, and still allows you to target effectively, but the control of this data is solely owned by the walled garden (i.e. Facebook). It’s, therefore, not a viable long-term solution for most.

When should you get started?

Immediately! If you haven’t already, now is as good a time as any.

Belinda Clark is the strategy director at RAPP Singapore

Campaign Asia

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