By: Jaimie Hefelfinger 

Have you noticed lately that your favorite websites have included a pop up for you to accept cookies? Or a flood of emails in your inbox alerting you to your favorite brands changing their privacy policies? It is evident that privacy is at the forefront of both the consumer’s and the marketer’s minds, and as a response we are seeing regulations coming down at a country, state, and industry level. But what do all these changes mean for our advertisers, and what should we be aware of as marketers?  

The root of these changes stems from the idea of transparency, and giving the consumer to the right to opt-in or opt-out of being tracked. Up until data collection came under scrutiny, brands and data companies alike could collect information on a user and use that data to tailor the user’s digital experience based on their online and offline behaviors. For instance, if someone recently purchased a particular brand of coffee using their grocery store loyalty card, that data could be shared for marketing purposes. That user could start seeing ads for competitive coffee brands, coffee filters, coffee creamers, etc. Consumers began to question how ethical it was to collect and distribute this data without having insight into what they were sharing. Lawmakers and tech leaders in the industry began to evaluate the morality.  

One of the first major changes around privacy and data came in 2018, when the European Union implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Under GDPR, brands must receive consent from the user prior to tracking them. This change is noticeable when you go to a website that asks you to accept or deny cookies. In the U.S., California was the first state to take action and implemented the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Under CCPA, a user has the right to request what information is being collected on them and to opt-out of being tracked. There are other states making a push for similar legislation and it is believed that federal mandates are just a few years away.  

In addition to legislation changes, the industry giants are taking it upon themselves to make changes in how they track users. Apple announced that its iOS14 (expected to take effect in early 2021) will require users to consent for mobile apps to track their IDFA (Identification For Advertising). An IDFA is used to target a mobile device such as where a user has been or the apps that have been downloaded to that device. Industry experts suspect that only a fraction of Apple users will agree to be tracked for advertising purposes, which will be a major impact to the data available to target mobile advertising. It is suspected that a similar change will be released for Android following Apple’s release. In addition to mobile device ID changes, website browsers are implementing changes to third party cookie tracking. Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox have already blocked third party cookie tracking, with Google’s Chrome announcing that it plans to phase out cross-site cookies in 2022. Third party cookie tracking is what allows brands to retarget users and track conversions; as well as how data management platforms collect and target audiences. These blockers will also have a major impact into the targeting of digital advertising campaigns.  

But are these changes and the “cookie-apocalypse” disastrous for advertising? Of course not! As these legislations and industry changes take effect, how we target users will inevitably change. There will be more emphasis on cookieless targeting—such as location, contextual, and private marketplaces—which will rely on first party data. There will be new ways of targeting as well. For instance, the developers at Centro are hard at work on cookieless conversion tracking. The cliché holds true: The only constant in this life is change. While the “how” we target users will undoubtedly change, what will remain constant is our ability to connect our advertisers with potential customers.  

Don’t miss our February newsletter, where we will explore alternative ways to target as cookie limitations come into play, and be sure to sign up for our March webinar, where we’ll discuss data regulations and what changes lie ahead in more detail.