Google Cancels Cookies: What It Means for Your Business

You may have heard all the hubbub about Google canceling cookies. Here’s what’s happening, why, and what you need to do about it.

First, what are cookies?

“Cookies,” in the digital world, are pieces of code that help websites track online activity. They are what allow Google Analytics to show you how many people are visiting your website, how many of them are first-time visitors versus returning visitors, which content they look at for how long, etc. It’s all useful information when you’re creating web content and planning ad campaigns.

Why is Google canceling cookies?

Consumers are more and more concerned about their data privacy, prompting legislation that prevents websites from collecting information without express permission from the visitor.

For instance, new legislation is the reason you have to click a button to “accept” or “allow cookies” on most websites you visit now. There are still going to be similar opt-ins on websites after cookies are retired, at least for websites that serve audiences in California, and likely that will continue to grow as a best practice worldwide.

So is this going to handicap your digital marketing plan? Not at all.

What is replacing cookies?

For those in the digital know, this update isn’t shocking. Most digital advertising agencies are already well past using cookies, relying on other types of data instead:

  • Device IDs. Personal devices – like cell phones and tablets – have device IDs, strings of numbers and letters that advertising platforms can use to track and target audiences across the web. Connected TVs even have unique IDs that are used to distinguish individual households using IP address information. All this data, combined, is more reliable and effective for identifying how people spend their time online and when it’s best to show them a brand message.
  • First-Party Data. This is data consumers voluntarily provide to a company – like entering their email address to join a mailing list or completing a profile for an online membership. Companies typically store this info in a customer relationship management (CRM) system, such as Salesforce.

Given enough information between these sources, it can all be combined into an online profile – linking all of a person’s devices with their email address, and so on, creating a much more accurate picture of the consumer’s interests and behavior than cookies ever could.

“Most digital advertising agencies are already well past using cookies.”

What protects consumer data now?

Not to worry; unless you opt in to receiving content from brands, the data is completely anonymous. Meaning, companies may know your salsa brand preference or the type of trash bags you buy, but otherwise they aren’t able to distinguish you from anyone else. Even when you have opted in to receiving messages from companies and first-party data is used, that data is typically filtered through a “safe haven” – a middleman that deidentifies the data – before it’s used for targeting in most platforms. So, an advertiser can see behavioral trends among groups of consumers (e.g., middle-class women in their 30s tend to read about fitness and purchase organic food) but can’t see your individual behavior (e.g., Jane in Toledo obsessively reads celebrity gossip and buys a lot of fizzy water).

At Balcom, we use LiveRamp – a data onboarding platform and safe haven that lets us use our client’s first-party data to gather insight and effectively target audiences in a privacy-compliant way.

Ultimately, all this means we’re improving both data collection and protection for more efficient ad targeting and better consumer privacy.

TL;DR Summary

Do I have to worry as a brand?

Probably not. Your agency has most likely already moved past using cookies to track data. If you’re not sure, ask them.

Do I have to worry as a consumer?

Due to legislation and consumer demand, there are safety measures in place to protect your data, and companies like Google say that they are working to create additional protocols that give consumers more control.

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Tags: Media Planning & Buying, Web & Digital

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