How to prepare for the death of cookies and privacy reforms of 2024

Privacy is poised to be a big topic in 2024, with multiple ramifications on the digital advertising front.

Sebastian Diaz, iAB council member and senior digital solutions lead at Bench, explains how marketing teams and agencies must prepare themselves for Australia’s privacy purge, and Google's cookie phase-out.

Privacy is poised to be a big topic in 2024, with multiple ramifications on the digital advertising front.

As we sit with the stalemate that is the Government’s response to the Privacy Act Review Report, marketing teams as well as agencies must prepare themselves for Australia’s turn for the privacy purge.

This has been a long time coming with the rise of consumer privacy legislation sweeping the globe since Europe’s GDPR’s in 2018.

In addition to that, Google has finally kicked off phasing out the cookie on Chrome this month, with it expected to take full flight in the September quarter this year. Be it legislation or technology changes, brands will have their hands forced in changing their advertising tactics. It’s time to get on the privacy and cookieless train before we feel the pain.  

Let’s take it from the top – what is the Privacy Review? 

Since 2019, the Australian Government has been looking at giving a measure of control to individuals on how their personal information is used in direct marketing and advertising. At the time, they announced the need for the Review to investigate the effectiveness of Australia’s current data protection regime to ensure it “empower[s] consumers, protect[s] their data and best serve[s] the Australian economy”. In February 2023, they published their Privacy Act Review Report, which was met with some concern in parts of the marketing industry.   

Some of the proposed changes that affect the marketing industry include a) a user having the right to ‘opt out’ of their personal information being used in direct marketing, and b) a website needing a user’s consent when ‘trading’ their personal information. However, the semantics around what direct marketing, targeted advertising, targeting and trading are all still in discussion.

The government is now undertaking impact analysis, in consultation with the industry, before coming to a final decision on the Review this year. This has set brands into a tailspin of what to do – particularly those who have been dependent on cookie-based targeting. Without this ability to target and collect users information as easily, brands and publishers are losing one of their most valuable assets.  

How to best prepare for the 2024 cookie and privacy double whammy:

Non-cookie based targeting solutions are making a comeback

What’s old is new and better than ever. Contextual targeting, which is based on the content being consumed, has made a resurgence, as strong as 90s fashion and flip phones, but is much improved. 

While the dust settles on the upcoming cookie changes, it is likely for advertising to step up their reliance on contextually-based environments as an interim, though alternatives to cookies that involve anonymisation-based targeting will continue.   

Contextual targeting has recently been supercharged by AI, which enables it to be delivered and tested with greater accuracy, speed and scale – using a combination of image, video, text and audio content. It’s far less word prescriptive than it used to be, and has proven to drive lower funnel activity. 

What’s old is new again, but definitely stronger.   

Data warehousing is all the rage

If you can’t buy it, make it. And there’s no stronger audience than the audience you already know. With most brands already collecting their customer’s data in one way or another (be it through loyalty programs, email addresses or site activity), 2024 will be the year to scale this up as a necessity.  

 It’s one thing to collect this data – but it’s another to utilise it. Brands often get stuck with this – either due to internal politics or red tape or the lack of expertise in building a valid consent framework and preventing potential data leaks.  

As data volume, variety, and velocity continue to outpace many teams’ capabilities, organisations face the challenge of collecting, transforming and putting customer data to use while adhering to new and evolving regulations. Still, data-first strategies are gathering plenty of advocates.

For brands leveraging significant amounts of customer data for various use cases, investing in a CDP would be a no brainer. As would be engaging in data partnerships with other brands, allowing brands to collaborate on data and utilising this across their marketing activity. Further to this, engaging in a data clean room comes up as one of the best ways forward to remain legally compliant.  

Data providers and publishers are the experts – they’ve been making the change for years

Publishers and data providers have been preparing for regulatory changes for some years – even if they haven’t known what the new regulation will look like.  

Big buying platforms with first party data such as Google (GoogleID), Yahoo (Next-Gen and cookieless), Meta (via Facebook) and Amazon (especially as a major player in the retail media space) are ready to go with their identity solutions. Other interoperable cookieless identity solutions such as The Trade Desk’s UID, or Lotame’s Panorama ID, enabling brands to target first and third party audiences on ‘cookieless’ inventory are also ready. 

Publishers have been testing these cookieless identity solutions, and will be protected once third-party cookies completely exit the ecosystem. 

Know – and embrace – that changes are for the greater good

Change doesn’t come without fear – but what’s most important is to keep perspective as to what drives the need for change, both legislatively and technologically. Though it may feel as though Australia is being dealt a double whammy in 2024, it’s important to remember that the privacy change is ultimately about consumer trust which, according to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)’s latest surveys, is at an all time low. With privacy becoming a core expectation among 89% of consumers, this expectation demands that brands re-evaluate how they handle their customers’ data to ensure they prioritise privacy focused practices and technology to keep data safe. 

Some big brands such as P&G and tech giant HP have also been very proactive in implementing new cookieless technology and alternative identifiers (such as UID2), and have built consent frameworks that are compliant across privacy legislation worldwide. These players have enjoyed the maximum value from their investment and have built innovative new advertising solutions with a data collaboration platform at the core of their strategy. The same should be done for brands of any size looking to be ahead of the curve and capitalise on industry changes. 

Brands shouldn’t wait for legislation and Google to force their hand – they must prioritise privacy today, and as a framework for their business to make the best change possible, and not a band-aid job.  

Sebastian Diaz, iAB Council Member & Senior Digital Solutions Lead at Bench 


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