DELVE | Post-Cookie World

March 11, 2021

On March 3rd, Google officially confirmed that once 3rd party cookies are phased out of the Chrome browser (within the next 18 months), Google will not work or support any alternate user-level identity solutions.

In other words, similarly to Apple, Google will be removing user-level identity solutions (for the sake of consumer privacy) and this move will have a major impact on the world of digital advertising. After a couple of years of Apple announcing an update to its ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention) Protocol – and Google announcing a way for marketers to go around Apple’s chess moves (GA4, Store Signals, Ads Data Hub, etc) – the reality is clear.

There will be no replacements or substitutes for tracking. No 3rd party user-level identifiers. No support to new ‘magical’ solutions such as the Identity 2.0 initiative, led by LiveRamp and TheTradeDesk. No regrets.

User tracking is dead, and consumer privacy won.

As a top-rated Google measurement and advertising partner, as well as a tech-agnostic digital consultancy, we at DELVE had hoped … that as much as we support consumer privacy … there would emerge a new “magical” tracking solution to measuring advertising at user level. Now that we know that wish-list is over, here is what these announcements mean for Marketers:

1. Walls in-between the ‘walled gardens’ are growing

If you can’t beat them, join them. Google siding with Apple, putting the Consumer in front of the Advertiser, is not a 100% altruistic move. Google is an elephant in the room, playing a big role as a demand-side, supply-side, and intermediary provider with their Google Ads, AdSense, Display&Video360, (formerly) DFP and AdX solutions. Last but not least, Google Analytics was playing an important role as a single source of truth for marketers to merge the data across all channels to deliver the ultimate attribution view.

With Apple leaving the 3rd party data flock, something had to go. Google decided to take the high road by prioritizing 1st party data and in the process to strengthen their closed ecosystem against the rest of the world. Marketers will still be able to buy personalized ads within Google Ads or DV360, on properties “owned and operated” by AdSense or DFP, bought through AdX.

Sounds familiar? Yes, this is exactly what Facebook has been doing too.

2. Open Web solutions are in trouble

Identity 2.0 is a great concept, based on the 1st party data and consented user-level information such as email. But with Google and Apple controlling 90% of Desktop and Mobile web traffic combined, without the considerable (75%+ of traffic) publisher adoption, the Identity 2.0 “fix” loses relevancy.

Google’s and Apple’s cookie deprecation could be the first step out of several. Nothing prevents Apple or Google from limiting browser-shared information further, like blocking the sharing of IP addresses or Emails unless proactively submitted by consumers on a website.

The latter is hard to achieve, and without incentives to publishers and therefore end users, other open web solutions such as the “Nielsen” model where you are replicating the ID, will become increasingly challenging.

3. Quadropoly’s power is increasing

If historically we have been talking about the “3 flavors of intent” between Facebook as an Awareness signal, Google as a Consideration signal, and Amazon as a Purchase signal, controlling the advertising market, now there is a 4th player. Apple is acting as a regulator, affecting the advertising market by setting a new standard – and that trend will only continue.

Consumes’ desires was long overlooked in the world of Criteo “persistent retargeting”, and Apple is intended to get consumers’ a seat at the table, back. They are doing somewhat good to us Marketers, stopping the spread of AdBlock adoption.

4. Aggregation is not bad, but 1st Party Data is key

We all have learnt that “aggregation is bad” and “1:1 marketing is key”. That concept is not going anywhere, but with 1 change – “1:1 relationship is key”, suggesting that Customer Lifetime Value, Share of Wallet and Repeat Transactions will become more important than ever. Brands that will be able to build relationships with their existing customer database and live by the value of the ecosystem, will thrive.

For those Brands that know their 80/20 rule (20% of customers provide 80% of revenue), this aligns with their already established focus. But how does growth and new markets fit into the picture? For prospecting, we will all need to grow our comfort with Aggregation. FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) is neither good nor bad – it’s just the “new normal”. However, the more 1st party data is available—captured by Brands about people who visit or purchase on their properties—the more accurate these FLoC cohorts can become.

Ads Data Hub and others Data Clean Rooms have been showing us for the last few years what that cohort world is going to look like, and it seems that we should anticipate “50 people per cohort” as the minimum. Amplifying the value of 1st party data even further – 4 cohorts of 50 for the total customer base of 200 vs. 4,000 cohorts of 50 each, for the total customer base of 200,000, are 2 very different levels of accuracy.

And while Brands can’t collect more data than there are customers, neglecting to prioritize and not using what is being collected, will hurt Brands in the long term.

5. Stepping up the game of Prediction

Attribution versus Marketing Mix Modeling was a long-standing conversation, and the current changes are strengthening the position of the latter method. It might be impossible to accurately attribute the credit “back” to a particular interaction, but it’s still going to be vital to look at what media mix drives the highest overall Brand revenue.

Therefore, Analysts – and more specifically Data Scientists – will continue to become an essential part of the Marketing org. Content Engagement indices to measure the impact and probability of many small steps leading to one transaction, predicting Lifetime Value early on in the journey, and leveraging scenarios, are all going to make marketers’ lives much easier – and performance much higher.

6. Experimentation is the new Measurement

Remaining agile and dynamic, while measuring the impact against a baseline, identifying and localizing small changes, and acting fast in order to abruptly, deliberately, and ruthlessly cut what is not working will continue to define performance.

Delve doesn’t believe that an idealistic “Ultimate Truth” is necessary to make improvement decisions. It might be harder to know what is working Best – but what is working Worst will always be “easier” to identify. Highest CPC, highest Cost per Session, lowest Time on Site, highest Bounce Rate, lowest Creative Engagement Rate – those metrics remain as early proxies of underperforming budgets or campaigns.

Bottom line: the world is changing – but haven’t we learnt that “Changing times is the time to Thrive”?

Cookies have taken away a lot of the creativity from marketing, making it easier to just go with the flow. It hurts to lose something we have became comfortable relying on, but that doesn’t change this foundation:

Reach out to Anton directly at to have a 1:1 discussion.

team member image
Anton Lipkanou

President & COO