The use of browser cookies and ad tracking, in general, are fundamental to our web experience. Ad tracking provides two fundamental advantages within the advertising landscape:
- Ad tracking facilitates better-targeted ads to consumers (meaning that consumers should see ads that are more relevant).
- Ad tracking provides feedback to the advertisers on the effectiveness of the ads, which means they can optimize the ad experience to be more profitable.
Ad tracking has attracted critics since the 90s when cookies were developed, shortly after the web started to explode in usage across the planet.
For myself, and others who have been following this trend since the beginning (particularly those in marketing and advertising professions), what’s more surprising is how much the general public has accepted tracking, as well as the real and potential privacy infringement. Having said that, “accepted” may not be the most apt term, even if that seems to be the case by virtue of the growth of ad tracking. In reality, the lack of understanding in the general public about the value and use of their personal data is likely the primary factor driving the monetization of personal data by tech giants against limited public friction.
Although Google, as the biggest advertiser, was the biggest target for criticism for years, they were surpassed by Facebook, which was more prominent in their flouting of privacy concerns. (And Facebook has even more private data on their users than Google).
Regardless that tech giants have been benefiting from the lack of consumer awareness about privacy concerns for so many years, the tide has been slowly changing.
ADVERTISING TIDAL SHIFT
In the past several years, as media about data hacking and data sharing has become more routine in the news cycle, three vectors of influence have started to change the landscape:
- Tech companies themselves have become more proactive about protecting consumer privacy and have adopted more consumer-friendly policies.
- Governments have started to mandate greater consumer privacy protection. Most prominent is The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is the European law regulating data protection and privacy.
- And consumers themselves have started to become more interested in privacy protection, as evidenced by a slow migration to privacy-centric search engines and browsers, such as DuckDuckGo and Brave.
ADVERTISING IN A COOKIELESS WORLD
This will make for an interesting race in the coming years.
- Will Brave win out as the best idea and early mover?
- Or will the gradual shifts that are being adopted by the tech giants allow the big guys to maintain their dominance?
This is truly a David and Goliath struggle that will play out with consumer privacy being the biggest beneficiary.
As advertisers, some of us might feel threatened by the prospects of losing cookies. However, as an old-timer in the marketing and advertising universe, I’ve come to expect constant change. And not only that, the acceleration of the rate of change.
I, for one, am pleased to see the tidal shift finally occurring, even if it’s been surprising that it’s taken so long.
Avid hiker, bicyclist, motorcyclist and long-time advertising pro. Founder of Skyworks Marketing, Nonprofit Fire and Our Ventura TV (cable TV). One career highlight was working on a small team that built a business from nothing to over $100 Million in 3 years. Skyworks Marketing provides video advertising and lead generation services. We create custom marketing funnels that provide the highest-quality leads and sales.