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Industry Contributor 26 Apr 2021 - 4 min read

Data: It’s in the way that you use it (or why marketers may have a consent problem)

By Clay Gill, CEO - Matterkind

Matterkind CEO Clay Gill says marketers must quickly get to grips with a post-cookie world – and what looming regulation means for consent management. 

If you ever needed a theme song to sum up the cookieless world then go no further than Eric Clapton’s 'It’s in the way that you use it':

It's in the way that you use it, It comes and it goes

It's in the way that you use it, Boy don't you know

And if you lie you will lose it, Feelings will show

So don't you ever abuse it, Don't let it go

Looming data privacy regulation and internet browser policies are set to trigger significant shifts in the use of cookies for marketing. How we get data and how we use it will be the main agenda for regulators and for brands. Marketers must use this time to upskill, educate themselves and understand the changing market environment we all now face.

Historically, digital marketing has relied heavily on cookies for tracking, profiling, targeting and re-targeting internet users. Now, pressure is coming from two directions:

  1. Recent legal rulings by data privacy regulators across Europe have given web users much more control over cookies being dropped on their devices and have made blocking cookies easier.
  2. Google Chrome announced plans to end the use of third-party tracking cookies within a year’s time. This follows steps taken by Safari and Firefox to automatically block third-party cookies.

Why did cookies exist in the first place?

Cookies are small pieces of code stored in your browser that websites use to remember important information regarding your online activity, they store information on your browsing history and give advertisers a view of your web-identity.

For years, advertisers have been using third party cookies to track website visitors, improve the user experience, and collect data that helps target ads to the right audiences. We use them to learn about what our visitors are checking out online when they aren't on our websites and to perform analytics and measurement.

Due to the fundamental role cookies play in serving ads and their widespread use, the third party cookie has been the backbone of the online ad industry for nearly two decades. They have become such an important part of the industry that collectively we have overlooked their drawbacks.

The headline concern in recent times has been the lack of transparency and privacy controls when cookies are used. Consumers have very little insight and input into how their data is being harvested, and ultimately consumer consent and ease of opt-out has never been explicitly and respectfully managed. This has created a large problem in our industry around the degradation of consumer trust towards advertising and brands. The issue has landed firmly in the marketer’s laps and it is now time for marketers to educate themselves.

First party, only party

With third party cookies on the out and first party data to the fore, walled gardens seemingly spy an opportunity to build a bigger wall under the guise of ‘privacy’. Apple is soon to launch its App Tracking Transparency framework as part of the iOS 14 update, creating a far more transparent user opt in framework for app tracking. And Google, which controls over 50% of the web browser market, has recently announced its own plans to replace third party cookies in 2022 with its own privacy focussed FLoC solution. This will only serve to build more of a monopoly – and force the rest of the competition to build a cohort of their own.

If anything, Google’s announcement is something of an own goal but then again, Google knew this might happen. By killing the third-party cookie it has in effect provoked the open web and its publishers into positive action.  TheTradeDesk’s Unified ID was moving at a snail’s pace two years ago with Jeff Green imploring publishers and competitors alike to band together. Chrome’s announcement that has put the snail on steroids.

All of which is good news for marketers and their brands. The new media landscape priorities will shift from a heavy reliance on a third-party advertising and measurement environment built on the humble cookie, to one built on a more persistent user authenticated first party identifier.

Those companies with first party data will thrive as they match and activate their advertising with precision, allowing brands to engage, reach and connect more effectively with consumers than ever before. All on the basis of their own measurable first party data. It’s potentially a world in which brands once more have license to run 60 sec entertaining ‘it’s a big ad’ adverts and elevate CMOs to the boardroom table.

However, marketers need to know the questions they need to ask and the conversations they need to have with their Boards, their agency partners and their platforms.

Remember to say please

With the precedent of regulation around cookies, the next step is to ask how robust is your first-party data consent management framework? Do you even have one…?

Advertisers best able to make use of first party data are those in data-rich categories (financial services, telecoms, travel, healthcare) rather than sectors like FMCG. However even those companies have already announced their intent to adopt “cookie-less targeting”. And we expect to see more brands taking control of their data by bringing adtech and martech in-house with CDPs (Customer Data Platform) as the central source of truth.

Yet the question remains, “Did you ask the customer to use their information, and have you been explicit in explaining for what purpose?” That is what regulators will look at – and it’s not far fetched to consider that you should know exactly these details (how you collect, store and use their data) should a consumer ask. How you act and what principles you apply to collecting and using their data will also be a reflection on your brand. It will leave a lasting imprint on consumers' minds.

Only if brands are more explicit and upfront with first party data management will the value exchange between brands and consumers allow advertisers and publishers to competitively thrive under the roof of consumer trust.

So it's imperative for marketers to educate themselves on the cookieless landscape; what it means to their business and their consumers. They need to know how to change their thinking as we approach a new, significantly altered environment.

A good place to start is with ADMA's post-cookie masterclass. It gives all marketers an understanding of what they can expect from the new world. 

* Clay Gill is a speaker at the ADMA post-cookie masterclass. ADMA is an Mi3 commercial partner.

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Clay Gill, CEO

Matterkind

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