(coauthored with David Novitzky)

Marketers use a wealth of consumer data for digital media buying, audience insights, targeting, measurement, and personalization. Unfortunately, this data dependency has put them in a precarious situation: The once abundant pool of consumer data is drying up thanks to privacy regulations, browser protections, and walled gardens’ unwillingness to share data outside their ecosystems. Marketers’ access to data is being impeded as:

  • Browsers block third-party cookies in the name of user privacy. Major browsers have taken consumer privacy into their own hands — Firefox, Brave, Edge, and Safari already block third-party cookies by default, and Google’s latest announcement of phasing out third-party cookies has caused a wave of concern among marketers. Marketers and adtech vendors are both investigating how to adjust targeting, measurement, and planning strategies to reduce reliance on third-party cookies.
  • Privacy regulations let consumers control how data is used. Privacy regulations give consumers more control over their data. Californians and Europeans have the right to request that a company delete their personal information under the CCPA and GDPR, respectively. Consumers can now remove themselves from your marketing lists if they no longer want to interact with you, so marketers must rethink their audience-driven marketing strategies.
  • Walled gardens limit data access and extraction. Facebook, Google, and other walled gardens restrict an advertiser’s ability to access and extract data, which limits the advertiser’s insights into media performance and audience creation for digital advertising, targeting, and personalization. They’re adjusting to data limitations by leveraging walled-garden “clean rooms” for measurement, insights, and targeting, which returns data at an abstracted, rather than user, level.

Marketers must adjust their processes to the rapidly changing data landscape to avoid hefty fines — or, worse, alienating consumers through careless data use. For starters, we recommend the following:

  • If you’re working with a digital attribution provider that uses third-party cookies, ask how they are responding to the deprecation of the third-party cookie. Ask for their product roadmap to determine if they are developing an approach to cookieless measurement.
  • If you use a data management platform (DMP), look for an alternative source of data within the provider’s ecosystem, such as second-party data, that doesn’t leverage third-party cookies for data collection. If you want to activate DMP-based audiences, ensure that your buying platform vendors have also thought their way out of a cookie black hole. And start testing contextual advertising to determine its impact on your advertising ROI.
  • Find partners that have measurement and data access certification with walled gardens. For example, a handful of measurement vendors have a marketing mix measurement certification with Facebook, which grants them access to granular performance data they can leverage in their measurement models.
  • Boost your brand’s clout and media spend with the walled gardens as a negotiating lever for access to data for measurement and insights.

This is an evolving issue — the complexity and the potential solutions are changing, too. Check out our video blog and attend our webinar, The Future Of The Third-Party Cookie, to hear our advertising, measurement, and privacy experts discuss and answer questions surrounding Google’s third-party cookie announcement. And be on the lookout for more research and guidance from Forrester on all these topics.