Cookies have always posed a moral conundrum. As far back as 2010, The New York Times raised concerns around how users could be tracked, highlighting on its front page a tracking solution developed by Samy Kamkar – Evercookie. The solution continued to track a user even when they had deleted their cookies.
Two and a half years later, The New York Times’ concerns were proved valid, when Edward Snowden leaked that the NSA were big fans of Evercookie using it to track US citizens without their knowledge.
The issue this raised 10 years ago was that even if the primary goal for tracking individuals is relatively harmless, it opens the door for abuse. Even those who mean well will be tempted to abuse the capability.
Fast forward to today and we are at the advent of a new era in data driven marketing. With Google and Microsoft having recently joined the likes of Apple and Firefox in limiting how users are tracked online, the insights available to advertisers and agencies alike are disappearing quickly. But we all knew that this was coming, and despite the initial shock to the system, from our point of view the move is good news for both consumers, customers and brands.
Our world at Hearts & Science is firmly based in the philosophy that everything is intertwined. Nothing should ever be reviewed in a silo. The elimination of cookie data will only push the industry to find another way. To reinvent and evolve. So rather than the great cookie panic, this should be seen as the great cookie opportunity.
Firstly, we believe that tracking should be regulated with clear lines drawn and users made aware of those lines. We should be putting their privacy, safety and experience first. Cookies slow things down, hindering consumer experience. Couple that with the accelerating regulation shifts such as GDPR in Europe and the door on using these is well and truly closing.
Secondly, the loss of cookie data will only force us as an industry to take a step back. To stop ourselves from taking a myopic view of the world and start to look at the bigger picture more often. Rather than brands focusing on frequency capping and retargeting existing customers they should become more ambitious. Use the internet to attract new customers, prioritise growth over counting every penny and above all build a bigger brand whose online behaviour reflects its overall ethics. Improving your ROI on a shrinking top line in a less than transparent method should not and never should have been the goal.
Lastly, we no longer need to rely on cookies and the dominant business model of free services for your data will need to evolve. More transparent less aggressive tracking solutions are the future. Powered by AI, we can now deliver the near accuracy of attribution in real time. The traditional econometric model can now be super-powered, moving it from delivering a static snapshot in time to a dynamic and continuous reporting and measurement solution.
So, when Campaigns’ Omar Oakes asked in his 10th May article “Are marketers and agencies ready for a cookie-less world?” our answer at Hearts is yes! We were born ready to embrace this change and the opportunities this will bring.
Frances Ralston-Good, CEO & James Londal, Chief Data Officer