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Industry Contributor 29 Mar 2021 - 4 min read

What the FLoC is happening with cookies? Marketers need to wise up, or explain why they are losing money to the board

By Andrea Martens, CEO - ADMA

Cookies are a proxy war for much bigger changes to the digital marketing landscape – and marketers could find themselves collateral damage. Reliance on compliance teams, partners and agencies just won’t cut it this time, nor will citing "changes to the algorithm". It's time to wise up.

What you need to know:

  • The death of third party cookies will have a major impact on both marketers and agencies.
  • Everything from personalisation, audience targeting and re-targeting, tracking and measurement relies on third-party cookies
  • Where marketers were once able to rely solely on their agencies and technology partners, they will now need to have the knowledge internally as it will have a material business impact, potentially resulting in revenue loss.
  • It's time to educate yourself on the impact, so you can educate your business and its board.
  • ADMA, an Mi3 commercial partner, is hosting a series of masterclasses.

Cookies have been central to every marketers’ digital marketing strategy, a key source for reaching a target audience, engaging them and then converting to business goals. Now Google is pulling the plug. Add to that the obvious compliance measures that will change through regulatory developments, whether that be the ACCC’s digital advertising inquiry, the Attorney General's Privacy Act review or other ACCC manoeuvres, it all overlaps with understanding cookies.

Marketers will need to understand just how deeply the change impacts their role, and businesses will need to double down on developing first-party data. Currently marketers have cookies at the core of their digital plans. Everything from personalisation, audience targeting and re-targeting, tracking and measurement relies on third-party cookies. 

Moving forward data ownership, transparent use of data and consent management will become the foundation of any marketing strategy - and the onus will be on marketers to explain to businesses and boards what is happening to reach, revenue and risk exposure. Where marketers were once able to rely solely on their agencies and technology partners, they will now need to have the knowledge internally as it will have a material business impact, potentially resulting in revenue loss and more than likely resulting in a completely different way of operating. This is an opportunity for marketers to mitigate risk for their businesses and guide their boards through this time.

Why should marketers care?

Essentially the buck will stop with marketers. They are the ones who own the customer relationship, and it is up to them to have the right conversations with their internal and external teams. As third-party cookies depreciate, the obvious changes that an unprepared business will see in its bottom line and risk exposure will end up being reflected directly in areas that fall under the responsibility of marketing. Marketers need to care about this current cookie conversation largely to ensure they are on top of measurement and attribution, in order to maintain or create a competitive advantage and to continue to effectively be able to deliver against their businesses’ expectations – revenue, growth and efficiency of spend.

Cookie changes will also have a significant impact on marketing spend. It is better for the marketer to understand how these changes can help reduce marketing spend wastage, quickly rather than be left short (or having to explain to a disappointed board). The standard “algorithm change” excuse won’t fly when businesses can look around and see that prepared marketers have been able to turn the change in their favour.

Manage the impact

Anticipating the new landscape will let marketers take control in managing the impact. Cookies have been a tried and tested tool for many years whereby the new models coming out (Floc, Fledge, iOs14 etc) are not, yet.

Marketers need to be across these new options and develop an understanding to ensure agility in order to move when things change… and they will continue to change for a while. The best way to do that is to be educated in the environment, issues and options themselves. The environments (data, loyalty, privacy, targeted marketing etc) at their core won’t change, but the way in which marketers achieve their goals within the environment will. Understanding the environment will empower marketers to make decisions around who they will or want to partner with. Your board will be grateful that its marketers were proactive in taking responsibility for their teams and understanding the questions to ask.

Consumers are also becoming savvier regarding this environment. As the issues are led by global giants – the news drips into their mainstream news and newsfeeds.  This means your customers are asking more questions about how their data is being used, where they are being targeted and how different legislation will affect the collection of their personal information. And the more questions they ask, the more the regulators get involved and the more change your business will have to face. It is a vicious circle - if you let it become one.

It’s imperative that marketers get on the front foot now. Learn how to provide appropriate transparency into your business’s practices and pivot your business to be prepared for regulatory changes as soon as they come.

Senior marketers need to ensure they are:

  • across the issues that face their businesses and the environment they are working in
  • armed with recommendations to the board
  • educating their teams on the complexities of the changes that will need to be made
  • aware of the questions they need to ask their agencies to ensure compliance changing regulatory environment
  • knowing who and how to partner up
  • protecting their business from unnecessary risk exposure
  • operating ethically, efficiently and effectively
  • follow various regulators. Historically the ACCC may not have been a key focus for marketers as big announcements from them were provided in updated training from legal teams. But right now, there are several open inquiries that are directly related to digital platforms and the outcome of these will change what and how marketers operate Marketers need to be front and centre.


What should marketers do?

Look internally at the key aspects of your own digital marketing strategies, you’re your path forward, being confident that as your reliance models change, they remain compliant with the regulatory changes. Have the right conversations with agencies and partners.
Marketers also need to look outside their businesses; so much of what is happening in the regulatory space will impact the way in which you do things. Don’t be left behind. Understand the various Inquiries that the ACCC have open right now, lean into industry conversations and understand the implications of changes to government regulation are going to impact their privacy policies.

But most of all educate themselves and their teams. If the marketers aren’t on top of all of this, their businesses will suffer.

Use the Cookie conversation to get across every other discussion that is currently in the Government’s fire line. While cookies are not part of the enquiry, they will be collateral damage of the conversation.

And finally…

With so many Inquiries about to deliver their milestone reports in different areas that impact the data-driven marketing and advertising industry, this is a unique time and opportunity to become prepared. The ACCC and Government will not wait for marketers to be ready (you’ve already had over a year). Change is coming. It isn’t too late for Marketers to get up to speed. It isn’t too late yet…but it will be. Don’t be left behind, ensure you have a seat at the right tables so you are a part of future decision making.

ADMA is running a masterclass aimed at educating marketers on the cookie environment. Details here

ADMA is a commercial supporter of Mi3.

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Andrea Martens, CEO - ADMA

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