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Power Essay 2020: Life after the cookie: what to expect when you’re expecting, by Choueiri Group’s Youmna Borghol

By Youmna Borghol, Chief Data Officer, Choueiri Group

A new era has dawned for digital advertising.

Stricter data protection laws coupled with browsers’ anti-tracking policies are fueling the drive for privacy-first strategies in the cookie-less world. Following Chrome’s ‘Cookie Apocalypse’ in January, Google’s plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in the next two years, as well as Apple’s recent IDFA (Identification for Advertisers) opt-in overhaul, are expected to have a significant impact on advertising businesses. As they scramble to imagine an entirely new ecosystem, here are three key things to expect:


First-party data will continue to capture the primary focus and investments of marketers and

publishers this year, as they respond to privacy regulations and strive to mitigate the risk associated with reliance on third-party data.

In an effort to drive better customer experiences, there has been an accelerated, industry-wide emphasis on collecting, managing and activating first-party audience data. Recent Winterberry Group research found: 60 per cent of marketers have already increased their spending on first-party data for targeting, aiming to obtain more value; 36 per cent increased investment in third-party data management capabilities and resources; and 33 per cent onboarded or began the process of onboarding a new customer data platform (CDP).

The shift in focus towards first-party data collection is at the centre of the publishers’ fight for survival in this new ecosystem. As marketers move from the data management platform (DMP) to the CDP, publishers are hitting the reset button and abandoning first-generation DMPs for next-generation DMP technologies in order to restore scale to their segments. By leveraging the golden opportunity they have as primary owners of valuable first-party data, publishers are growing addressable audience pools, improving campaign performance and increasing revenue.

Consecutively, direct partnerships between advertisers and publishers are on the rise. Owning both user relationships and inventory, publishers provide a content service for users who in turn interact with the service, generating a wealth of valuable first-party data. When third-party cookies disappear and Apple’s IDFA restrictions are enforced, advertisers will have no choice but to turn to publishers for first-party data.


As the market evolves, identity will continue to be a vital part of marketers’ efforts to build deeper connections with their consumers. 37 per cent of marketers confirmed that first-party data is being used alongside third-party identity resolution solutions to provide advertisers with better accuracy, reach and scale to create audience segments, deliver targeted campaigns and gain data-driven insights, the Winterberry Group found.

Over the last two years, the identity landscape has evolved greatly, its current state influenced by the challenges of the privacy-first, post-cookie world and the inevitable changes it has brought about in both identity resolution and identity graph creation.

Three significant developments have occurred:

  • The recognition that privacy-by-design and consent are key elements for identity. Identity providers are leveraging an ever-growing list of practices to resolve the privacy challenges associated with first-party data such as clean rooms, bunkers, differential privacy and other environments designed to provide data security.
  • The existential crisis of shared IDs and solutions based on third-party cookies. The IAB Tech Lab had to shut down DigiTrust back in July due to the ongoing decline of third-party cookies.
  • The development of unique identity resolution applications independent of third-party cookies. For authenticated solutions, the challenge remains scale, with no clear winner or solution in sight just yet.

What remains clear is that multiple ID solutions will be required and, in order to achieve their goals of consumer engagement and acquisition, marketers will have to apply a mix of approaches based on the availability of privacy-compliant identifiers as well as the suitability of approaches for specific channels and touchpoints. In parallel, publishers and other media owners will have to support multiple ID solutions based on their scale of first-party data.


Data specialists continue to remain on top of consumer privacy measures and customer data regulations, yet the anxieties surrounding new regulations (which dominated the marketing landscape in 2019) have faded. The ‘threat of data privacy’ regulation dropped steeply on the list of challenges this year, with only 18.9 per cent of respondents identifying data privacy regulation as a top concern. Rather, the decline of cookies, as well as the business impact of Covid-19, have surpassed privacy as the top concerns for 2020.


Over a year ago, the top priority was being GDPR-compliant, but now the subtle echoes of data privacy can only be heard in the distance, with first-party data and identity resolution taking centre stage.

Of course, many questions remain about the future of measurement and targeting. Will row-level data disappear? How will we evaluate performance and optimise spend for results? Will identity solutions only solve for certain aspects? The list goes on, and only time will tell. And, while uncertainty is a part of life, opportunity exists when we can adapt and innovate in the midst of it.