The Death of Cookies Makes Digital Advertising Stronger

The HOW Agency’s EVP and Group Director, Paul Miser, weighs in on what the end of cookies means for digital marketers.

The TLDR? Outside of a catchy name and pervasive popups on every website you visit… the effectiveness of the cookie to change the consumer journey for better remains in question.

Rather than mourn the loss of a tool whose value was never fully realized (potentially could never be fully realized), as marketers, we can use this opportunity to re-focus on our ultimate goal: creating quality connections with consumers, and re-think how we can continue to optimize the other tools available to us to deliver on this promise for brands.

Read on for Paul’s full opinion below.

There has been a lot of talk and energy lately about the “death of the cookie.” I’ve taken some time to reflect on what that truly means to us as marketers. For one, how useful has the cookie been in terms of creating quality connections with our consumers – or has it been more of a nuisance to our consumers that we’ve been creepily tracking their every move? Based on my own experience as a consumer, I would probably say the latter was more the common practice than the former.

With or without a cookie, the goal for us as marketers, doesn’t change.

To quote Ted Levitt: the goal for marketing is to create and keep a customer. This is something that we can do regardless of the future of cookies with the right product, the right strategy, the right go to market programs, and the right creative and messaging to break through.

While the strategy is unwavering, the execution remains consistent as well – capture demand that is out there, create new demand with new customers, and build relationships with new and loyal customers.

So, how do we do that in a potentially cookie-less world?

Ecosystem of Influence

Demand for products, services, and solutions are broadly created through influence. This used to be a brand led activity, however over the last several years, we are witnessing this becoming a brand orchestrated activity – where the brand facilitates earned, shared, and owned content to communicate value propositions, benefits, features, and offers through coordinated equity. This ecosystem of influence can be created and harnessed to power conversions and relationships.

Strategy in the Customer Journey

While many buying habits aren’t linear, there is a linear framework to marketing – you can’t buy something you’re not aware of. This linear framework can be structured into a customer journey or a full funnel view of milestones and stage gates to get to and through a purchase. Know these milestones and stage gates, we can deliver the right creative and message, with the right targeting to generate a next best action. We don’t need a cookie to facilitate this strategy, but letting the customer find their way to us with breakthrough creative.

Audience Profiling

Of course, success within a customer journey depends the granularity and intimate knowledge we have on our ideal customer profiles. In a cookie less world these are more segmented profiles rather than the one-to-one relationships we’ve always been promised but rarely executed. These “average customer profiles” in audience segmentation still gives us a robust view on who we’re trying to affect and how we go about doing that.

Creative is King / Content is Queen

With the increasing constraints on targeting over the last several years, the death of the cookie is just another reason to see the value in creative and content. We believe that the right breakthrough creative creates the best audience targeting because an interaction gives us more knowledge in the customer journey. Creativity in today’s world is breaking boundaries through ad placements, platform rules, and maximizing context. Understanding the situation of the customer we are trying to affect and the constraints of the tools at our disposal, true creative breaks norms to reach attention and action. Creative and Content will always be the key driver to any advertising and marketing efforts – with the right science to make optimization and next best action decisions.

Journey Orchestration

The bad news about third-party cookies going away is it can make it more challenging to stitch together the customer journey. However, we still have the awareness and intimate knowledge of our Audience Profiles and their journeys as well as any first party data that we have captured along the way. These ingredients are more than we need to orchestrate a journey that delivers against marketing KPIs, conversions, sales and growth.

Measurement & AI

Orchestrating a journey without a cookie also impedes on measurement and reporting – moving from the attribution dream of causation, we’ll still be operating in a correlative reporting structure – meaning that we’ll have to use a combination of art, science and intuition to make the right strategic, creative and optimization decisions. However, this is where AI can come in to play – taking data across different stage gates of the customer journey and analyze trends, behaviors and habits to aid in decision making – moving closer to causation through data stitching than ever before.

While the death of the cookie may feel like the death of digital advertising, I’m encouraged that we are at the beginning of a creative and human revolution – where we take the time to truly understand who we’re talking to, what value we are providing in the world, and how to break boundaries on creativity to capture attention and engagement.