Used to track consumers’ activities across websites, third-party cookies have been a fundamental part of the internet for nearly three decades, supporting a range of online experiences, such as storing login information or serving relevant ads. This tool has been especially exploited by advertisers to connect with their audiences for a long time. However, in 2024, the digital landscape is expected to undergo a significant change, as major browsers are starting to disable this functionality.

Growing concerns about user privacy and excessive tracking are some of the reasons that have led to a reevaluation of the role of cookies. The transformation process reached an important milestone in early January, when Google began disabling this function in Chrome, following in the footsteps of Firefox and Safari. The measure should be extended to all browser users by the third quarter of this year.

For the advertising and technology markets, the “end of cookies” represents challenges. While the initiative marks a positive step toward privacy, it raises questions about the future of advertising and targeting. According to the State of Data Brasil: 2023 survey, carried out by IAB Brasil in partnership with Nielsen, 48% of professionals still do not feel prepared for the end of this extension, and only 17% have enough information and feel capable of changes.

Faced with this scenario of uncertainty, in recent months, advertisers, agencies and publishers have been looking for alternatives to remain relevant in the new reality. Although challenging, the new moment can have significant implications for different market players: advertisers and agencies can adopt more privacy-centric approaches, using alternative segmentation and performance measurement methods; and publishers and editors are able to take advantage of their primary data to create advertising actions and develop more direct and personalized relationships.

In other words, these changes can promote more trust and engagement between brands and consumers. Among the most appropriate strategies for the cookieless era, the following stand out:

1. Focus on primary data: The main alternative found has been to focus on training in the collection, ownership and management of primary data, also known as “first party data”. This data refers to information collected directly from the consumer when interacting with a website or platform, which is shared voluntarily with prior authorization.

By recording this information, publishers have collected the email addresses needed for identity integration, while content consumption patterns provide the insights needed to create personalized audiences and campaigns.

2. Use of unified identifiers: Unified IDs are standardized solutions that provide a way to recognize and track users across platforms without relying on cookies. For advertisers and publishers, unified identifiers improve the ability to identify and engage with targeted audiences, ensuring that personalized, relevant content can reach the right users without compromising individual privacy.

3. Valuing contextual advertising: For a few years now, contextual segmentation models have been re-emerging on the market as a useful possibility. In 2021, 61% of publishers already expected to see an increase in budget for campaigns in this format. Segmentation not only makes it possible to reach audiences based on context or interest categories, but it also provides greater security and protection for brands.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are also opening up new possibilities in this modality, allowing advertisers to create personalized contextual settings to meet specific needs. AI algorithms are trained on a diverse set of articles, ensuring accurate classification and understanding consumer sentiment. For advertisers, this means precise targeting for brand safety, and publishers also benefit by maintaining the value of their ad inventory.

4. SDA Support: Seller Defined Audiences (SDA) will be another game changer in the post-cookie scenario. This is an addressing specification designed to enable publishers to effectively monetize their audience without relying solely on third-party cookies. Through it, it is possible to automate the content classification process, using natural language processing (NLP) to categorize pages.

5. Partnership with retail media: Retailers such as Amazon, Walmart and Target abroad and Magazine Luiza in Brazil have launched content and advertising platforms that have become valuable channels for consumer goods brands to obtain their own first-party data. With this, we can assume that the next big bet for retail media will be off-site segmentation. By extending their reach, these platforms will be able to rival Google and Meta and offer a new option for advertisers to diversify their media investments. However, brands must treat retail media like any other closed environment and not become dependent on a platform where they have control or limited access to data.

Furthermore, robust media planning, buying and measurement platforms, and many other features are on the way in 2024. While third-party cookies were a necessary tool, others are now emerging to ensure users’ privacy and comfort in the online world . At this time of transformation, it is important to take advantage of opportunities and invest in innovative solutions to stay ahead in market strategies. The end of cookies is an invitation to explore inventive alternatives and redefine audience engagement, with cutting-edge features prepared for future challenges, and advertisers have a lot to gain in this environment of possibilities.

*Fernanda Acácio is CEO of the global advertising platform MGID in Brazil.


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