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How do we know our marketing is working? This is one of the most important questions clients pose to agency teams. For the past few years, the ubiquity of cookies and third party pixel tags (such as Facebook or Floodlight) have enabled us to look at both click and view data on an individual browser/device basis and model out the contribution of each marketing touchpoint.

Losing third party cookies will make this more challenging.

The short term effect of the elimination of cookies will be attribution models that show less immediate impact of advertising, though the actual business impact will likely be unchanged. This demonstrates the need to anticipate and plan for measurement changes as part of the 2022 readiness plan. It should also encourage us to look for cookie-less solutions which let multi touch attribution providers that have access to log level data in a privacy safe fashion.

What Measurement Capabilities Can We Expect to be Impacted by Being Cookieless?

Walled gardens are well positioned with their vast amount of login data, whereas agnostic platform partners are having to seek out alternative ID-based solutions. Google’s FLoCS (Federated Learning of Cohorts) & Unified ID 2.0 are examples of solutions that are gaining steam. Google’s FLoC solution will be interesting for brands utilizing DV360 whereas Unified ID 2.0, championed by The Trade Desk, operates using encrypted email addresses of opted-in users.

The Facebook ecosystem will be heavily disrupted in attribution of conversion-based events, largely due to their reliance on mobile ad IDs for measurement. Historically, marketers have leaned heavily into Facebook due to their ability to evaluate strength ROI based on the multiple touchpoints that go into a final purchase, facilitated by the placement of a tracking pixel on the brand’s website. However, these Facebook pixels are defined as a third party cookie and will be limited in their ability to pass back of data once the elimination of the cookie is mobilized. As a whole, we can expect optimizations to be slower, and campaign performance could feasibly decline as compared to previous years. Brands and teams should start to plan for shifts in attribution and performance ahead of 2022.

Fortunately, there are potential workarounds. For example, brands can overlay their conversion-based data found on Google analytics to match up on site conversion with Facebook mobile IDs after the fact. This helps level media metrics back up to business goals, but requires more analysis and less timely results. Tests and conversations in 2021 can prepare in advance for performance declines and reduce a sense of panic. 

Who are Some Recommended Measurement Partners, Based on Various Goals, and What are Their Core Capabilities?  

Unified ID 2.0 (UID2) is a standardization system for identifying consumers across the open web

Which creates a privacy safe way to allow for opt-in based marketing. This solutions was initiated by the demand side platform, The Trade Desk, but they have committed to making UID2 fully open source, and have actively brought in multiple partners, to make this interoperable across sign on, publisher, bidding, and more. Of course, UID2 is inherently limited by being fully outside the Google ecosystem. Without YouTube or Google Search, the UID system will still have significant holes on the initial awareness and last touch end of digital marketing.

In addition to the partners integrating with UID2, other independent advanced measurement partners such as DISQO, Upwave & Lucid are taking steps to ensure they’re prepared & compliant. For Brand Lift, DISQO services will not be impacted by cookie loss, as they utilize a cookieless solution for measurement. DISQO is also CCPA and GDPR compliant, as all panelists have opted into their panel. Additionally there will be no impact for Upwave studies as they have an existing privacy-safe Household Level Intercept methodology. Lucid is also well prepared for a cookieless world as their surveys are double opt in by consumers, and they are currently CCPA/GDPR compliant


What are Important Steps Marketers Should Take to Prepare for Measurement in a Cookieless future?

Plan early & anticipate impacts to your measurement/attribution system. We encourage everyone to have conversations with clients to set expectations ahead of time. We’ve outlined a quarterly look at the impact across audiences, e-comm/attribution as well as media mix & creative. 

Expand implementation timelines: Relying on first party data more and needing to run that first party data through an identity solution and then back into a web environment will add time to campaign and ad ops setups. While match rates should improve, campaigns will be moderately more cumbersome to set up, especially as we get used to these new flows. Teams and clients should build in extra cushion.

Create new third party dependencies: This is not a new risk in the ad operations system, but an ever present risk that doesn’t go away under a new system. Instead of incentivizing partnership with data providers that create third party cookies, new setups will increasingly prioritize identity resolution systems, such as LiveRamp or Neustar. Fortunately, these companies benefit from interoperability and scale. The most important thing brands can do to reduce dependencies is to understand how your audiences and targets are built in each platform and know what’s different depending on the partner. Always ask what’s inside the box or model.

Blog: Success in a Cookieless Future – Answering Common Questions

Blog: Why Walled Gardens Will (and Won’t) Be More Critical in the Future

Blog: Cookie Deprecation – Preparing for 2021 and Beyond

Video: The Deprecation of Third Party Cookies – Audience Targeting 

Video: The Deprecation of Third Party Cookies – Measurement and Attribution