Expert: What advertising looks like in a cookie-less world

First it was Google announcing they would do away with third-party cookies, but Safari beat Google to the punch, so to speak, beginning to block third-party cookies a full week before Google could. While the move is good for consumers, it has left publishers and other online marketers wondering how to engage with consumers, how to track consumers’ wants, and how to target to them in-market. We asked a digital expert for insight.

Kristina: We’ve been hearing for several months that Google would begin blocking 3rd party cookies; Apple’s Safari, though, just rolled out a block of these cookies. What impact will this have on the digital ad space?

Dan Levin, President, COO & Co-Founder, ViralGains: Fortunately, Safari’s recent and total blockade of third-party cookies will actually have quite a limited impact on the digital ad space. The reason for this is that it is not new. Safari first released a version of this way back in September 2017 and have been improving upon it ever since. The majority of advertisers and ad tech players had already stopped advertising through Safari and have leaned on the other browsers in the meantime.

This recent update from Safari was more so like saying ‘we’ve already been blocking 95% of third-party cookies for a while, and now we’re going to be at 100%.’ Although it should be noted that this new update does permanently resolve one of the web’s original security vulnerabilities — which is cross-site request forgeries — given it required 100% of third-party cookie blocking.

Kristina: Why do you think they did this so quickly and without much notice?

Dan: The short notice likely has to do with the fact that it was almost already fully implemented. Now, they have more or less fully finished the project.

As it pertains to speed, I think it’s really a matter of clout. Apple prides itself on the message of being one of the most privacy-centric organizations in the world — at least among those with the sort of market share that Apple has. And when Chrome announced last year that it was going to phase out cookies completely, it seemed like they had a leg up on Safari, so this allows Apple to say they achieved 100% two years earlier.

Kristina: What moves should publishers and other digital businesses begin making now to react to Safari’s sudden blocking?

Dan: The real story of impact to publishers and other digital businesses remains what happens when Google Chrome implements the same in 2022.

Most publishers and digital businesses have fortunately already had since 2017 to modify business models and technology practices, and likely already had workarounds in place for the Safari implementation. Certainly, some were still taking advantage of the limited workarounds that previously existed, but it’s unlikely that they were still relying on Safari in such a capacity that this move would prove to be highly problematic or disruptive.

What publishers and digital businesses should be doing, on the other hand, is staying up to date on the continued, real-time developments as they pertain to the impending Google Chrome shutdown. The single best thing they can do is designate someone at their organizations as being THE person responsible for making sure they know what’s happening, what the most current thinking from the industry is (by participating in groups like the IAB’s REARC project, for example) and then working across internal silos and stakeholders to disseminate that information.

You would be shocked at how many businesses I’ve spoken to that are going to be immensely impacted by the Chrome 2022 cookies shutdown that still have no one at their respective organizations owning the responsibility of staying up to date with the issue nor responsible for preparing them for the changes.

Kristina: What does advertising in a cookie-less world look like?

Dan: If I had an answer to that question, I know a lot of organizations that would pay me a whole lot of money to give them the answer. Truth be told, the current state of affairs for everyone involved is ‘we know there’s going to be a fundamental change adapting to a cookieless world, and we are actively exploring a number of solutions that we’ll choose from, but none of which have yet to be adopted as THE solution.’ Bottom line: TBD, and we do know we’re going to have a solution that works for everyone — just not which exact one.

Kristina: How can marketers ensure they’re reaching consumers when they don’t have cookies?

Dan: First and foremost, first-party data will always be king. So to the extent to which marketers are reaching their existing customers through channels like email (and prospective ones via the same), there are always opportunities to market.

As it pertains to prospecting in the same ways as before with cookies, marketers do still have two full years of business as usual, and it’s furthermore worth mentioning that this is largely a browser/cookie issue. Things like connected TV, OTT and mobile in-app, which rely on device ID’s, will remain viable — as will contextual targeting.

There will be a solution (or multiple ones) that allows marketers to reach consumers even in a cookieless world, so I would be less concerned about exactly how to do it at the moment, and more concerned with being ready to adapt to whatever new solutions are ultimately implemented to achieve the same previous goals. This means marketers must designate the responsible parties for joining those organizations and groups actively working the issue, keep internal stakeholders up to date as new developments arise and then rapidly drive internal change once there’s a clear path.

This article originally appeared on BizReport.