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Cookie deprecation isn’t just the CMO’s problem

The key to preparing for the cookieless world is generating the type of trust that incentivizes consumers to share first-party data, writes Edelman’s Jacob Loban as part of The Drum’s Data Deep Dive. But creating this level of trust is no easy task – and no single stakeholder’s job.

As we know, Google will phase out support of third-party cookies by the end of 2023. Too often, however, conversations around the crumbling of the cookie are confined to advertising challenges – and these conversations typically culminate with the revelation that first-party data and contextual targeting is the way forward.

While I don’t disagree on the way forward, I do think confining the issue to advertising is far too limiting and will prevent brands from effectively deploying post-cookie solutions to their fullest potential. In fact, it may be the factor that determines which brands survive and which brands thrive in a post-cookie world.

The trust factor

Advertisers value the cookie for two primary reasons: addressable targeting and user-level measurement. Cookies enable brands to re-engage consumers with tailored messaging via retargeting and dynamic creative optimization. It is a common belief that customer data platforms will help brands maintain a similar approach after the cookie is gone, but these platforms are entirely reliant on first-party customer data, as the name states. This is where the crumbling of the cookie extends beyond advertising and CMOs.

In addition to data regulation, people are generally less open to sharing their data. So, if first-party data is the way forward, one may naturally ask how a brand is to obtain the data it needs to effectively operate a CDP. The answer lies with trust. Our proprietary research indicates that a customer’s willingness to share their data with a brand increases seven-fold if they trust the brand.

Herein lies the rub – trust is typically part of a communications effort led by the CCO, and measured using comms tools and KPIs. While it’s true that some communications channels are better positioned to help build trust, keeping comms efforts siloed from marketing efforts creates a fragmented view of the true consumer journey and prevents the capture and utilization of earned data, creating missed opportunities in marketing.

For example, it’s possible to identify and target people who have consumed or produced earned content, which is data inaccessible via native paid platforms or third-party sources. Additionally, marketing can be used to scale communications efforts, such as using paid ads to drive to positive earned mentions, creating more earned data.

The earned data produced by integrated marketing and communications efforts is then used to better understand the beliefs and motivations behind consumer behavior. Using data with empathy is essential for building trust, and critical as we move into the next era. It’s a virtuous circle: trust drives data, data drives empathy and empathy builds trust. Using data with empathy is also a means by which to unlock the first-party data required once the cookie has gone the way of the dodo.

Supercharging the entire value chain

The value of trust – and this integrated approach – extends beyond data collection. When one identifies trust at an individual or addressable level, one is able to unlock significant efficiencies across both advertising and communications efforts.

For example, it’s possible to determine trust levels in places where paid media efforts gain or lose efficacy. Individuals with trust levels below the calculated threshold are then deprioritized from paid efforts and instead targeted with audience-based earned efforts designed to improve trust levels. Once target trust levels are achieved, the audiences are activated through the paid campaigns.

The impact this can have on a brand’s paid performance is not negligible. Our research reveals that propensity of buying increases 14% for consumers who trust a brand when compared to consumers in neutral trust territory – imagine the lift against those who distrust a brand.

The measurement debacle

Let’s shift for a moment and discuss the impact cookie deprecation will have on measurement. The primary utility of the cookie, with regards to measurement, is to understand the impact and attribute value to media touchpoints at the user level (whether via cookie or user ID).

When the cookie goes away, advertisers will no longer be able to attribute value to each ad engagement that precludes a measured consumer action. Trust will not solve this problem, but as we all know – and as is evidenced by the fact that you’re reading this article – customers don’t only consume ads. They read articles and social posts, they speak with friends and family. They also create their own experiences with brands – all of which impact their perception of, and trust in, those brands.

Post-cookie, measurement solutions will primarily fall into two buckets: second-party (walled garden) tracking and media mix modeling. Walled garden solutions will only work within their ecosystems, making them inherently fragmented. Media mix models are more holistic, but to be truly impactful they must include paid, owned, and earned touchpoints – and be calibrated to brand health, sales KPIs and trust. Robust media mix models that incorporate all of these disparate components helps to optimize the virtuous circle of trust mentioned earlier, ultimately helping to generate the first-party data needed to thrive in a post-cookie world.

In summary, yes, the cookie is crumbling, and first-party data is the way forward, but consumers will limit the data they share if they don’t trust the brand. Brands need to earn trust to thrive the post-cookie world — and earning trust is not a comms-only objective. Therefore, an integrated marketing and communications approach is critical for brand success.

The truth is, there are more synergies than differences between marketing and communications, at least from the consumer perspective. Brands are simply failing to realize the bifurcated organizational model of marketing and comms has become highly inefficient and does not put the consumer at the center.

Jacob Loban is the North America head of performance marketing at Edelman Data and Intelligence.

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