In January 2020, Google announced it would phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome in 2 years. From the announcement: “Users are demanding greater privacy–including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used–and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands. Some browsers have reacted to these concerns by blocking third-party cookies, but we believe this has unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem. By undermining the business model of many ad-supported websites, blunt approaches to cookies encourage the use of opaque techniques such as fingerprinting (an invasive workaround to replace cookies), which can actually reduce user privacy and control.”
From a recent Google post advocating a more privacy-first web: “Developing strong relationships with customers has always been critical for brands to build a successful business, and this becomes even more vital in a privacy-first world. We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their own customers. And we’ll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with.”
Google’s alternative to third-party cookies is Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).
Apple’s iOS 14 update gave primacy to privacy, and allowed users to block IDFA at the app level. From GamesBeat: “With the new version of iOS, every app has to ask you upfront whether it’s OK to share your data with third parties. If you opt out, then advertisers will lose access to IDFA data and their ability to track you when you download games or make in-app purchases. Before this change, advertisers could freely track your mobile habits and precisely target you with offers that could generate a lot of revenue for the advertiser, whether it was a mobile game company or a travel app maker.” Basically, the opt-out became an opt-in.
And then came the recent announcement that iOS 15 would put a stop to email tracking pixels. From MacRumours: “Tracking when you’ve opened up an email and what you’ve read is something that many companies and advertisers rely on for their marketing efforts, plus there are email clients out there designed to let users know when the emails they’ve sent have been opened up. Much of this tracking is facilitated by remote images that load when viewing an email, and some of it is even sneakier, with advertisers using invisible tracking pixels. Tracking pixels are hidden graphics that you might not see in an email, but your email client loads them, allowing senders to gather data from you. Senders can see that you’ve opened an email get other information, such as your IP address.”
The demise of third-party cookies, the blocking of IDFA and the end of email tracking pixels – all herald a very different future for advertisers and marketers. And it is in this future that marketers need to go back to basics and create a simple model of their customers and build engagement with them. But before we get to that, let us understand the impact of all these changes.