Google has said it will make third-party cookies obsolete within two years. While Google’s decision is ostensibly about creating a more “private” web—it also a strategic coup. Google’s pullback from the open web will make it more difficult for marketers to optimize their audience reach or to measure campaign performance across platforms and tactics. The exclusive control of consumer behaviors within Google’s walled garden puts brands, agencies and ad tech at a competitive disadvantage – even as brands fund those behaviors. Fewer choices will lead to increased costs, depress results and could result in the manipulation of outcomes between brands. Here’s what marketers need to know.

Brands need to take full control

No one should cry over the demise of the third-party cookie. It was always an imperfect solution, and it became increasingly irrelevant as the mobile device began to dominate consumer usage. While the removal of the third-party cookie will represent a huge disruption to performance tracking, it is also an opportunity to design an identity resolution solution that fits the modern internet. The basis of any new Identity Resolution design has to begin and end by giving the brand back control of their customers.
Under the third-party cookie paradigm, brands relied on a pipeline of siloed vendors. List providers, onboarding platforms, data management platforms, demand-side platforms and attribution solutions. Each vendor that touched a data file effectively took ownership of it – and each of them represented a potential risk to the personally identifiable information chain of custody. The degree to which distributed data ownership is a risk is why we continue to debate CCPA, GDPR and any federal legislation that may eventually come.

One thing that is for sure – for the health of the brands’ business model, they need to prepare to take back control of their data. To do that they need sole custody of identity resolution and that means restricting transparency of personal identities to the brand.

It’s all about the integration

A high-quality integration is one that guarantees identity resolution across platforms. First-party identities must be able to move through the distributed data pipeline without leaving the brand’s control. As a technical matter, one way to think of this form of integration is to understand that the brand performs the matching internally, which is to say that a data file is never copied, uploaded or onboarded into a vendor’s system; instead, that data is digitally mapped between anonymous vendor IDs and distribution is controlled by the brand from one vendor to the next.

Identity resolution goes a long way to solving for privacy

For brands to control their own business model – they need to control the data flow between identity resolution, audience design and attribution. An end-to-end integrated around vendor-specific suite of IDs that only the brand can decrypt would mean no vendor in the chain of custody would have access to anything other than their own IDs and would go a long way to protecting user privacy.

What is important to recognize is that we need to move beyond the third-party cookie and even the idea of a shared universal ID. A key part of how brands safeguard privacy going forward is to serve as their own Rosetta Stone for every one of their audiences.
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