Leading up to New Year’s 2000, uncertainty hung in the air. Would infrastructure collapse? Would our world look vastly different the day before from the day after? Fortunately, the money in our bank accounts didn’t disappear. But, in 2023, our industry is facing its own “Y2K” problem. Only, instead of a hyped-up two-digit coding issue, the reality is that the “fire hose” of data we came to rely on as the foundation of digital advertising will slow to a trickle.
This monumental change affects every aspect of digital marketing, from media planning and measuring effectiveness to how our industry delivers the right experiences to the right people to how the players of our ecosystem get paid.
So, we wanted to know: “Is the industry prepared for a post-cookie world?” Our research with Ad Age Studio 30 surveyed marketers, ad tech and publishers. What we found was alarming: The uncertainty of “what’s next” continues to breed inaction.
The cognitive dissonance in preparing for a cookieless future
Our research found clashing beliefs in confidence and preparedness, resulting in a lack of urgency to address essential steps before the moment the switch is flipped.
While a little more than half of marketers reported having a high sense of confidence in their company to navigate the future of privacy and identity, 70% say they do not have the resources necessary to move through the change with success.
The disparity is because marketers believe that ad tech will be responsible for identifying post-cookie solutions. But, even though SSPs/DSPs will take the lead on identifying solutions, marketers still need to familiarize themselves and align with solutions to obtain future success.
The overconfidence, though, suggests that they won’t be ready.
Marketer’s false sense of security
Given the 2023 deadline is an extension, solutions should be well underway. But a lack of urgency and low level of awareness for solutions have created what amounts to a false sense of security for marketers, leaving the majority of marketers placing their confidence in an uncertain future.
To be sure, most marketers (84%) are aware change is coming. And yet, those polled admit they have little understanding of potential solutions. In fact, marketers are more than two times more likely to be aware of the shifts in privacy and identity than they are aware of solutions to them.
While other solutions hovered around 38% awareness, the IAB Tech Lab and cleanroom solutions were only familiar to a quarter of marketers. Because of this lack of knowledge, 69% of marketers have not yet implemented any identity solutions.
What they don’t know can hurt them. Advertiser performance, publisher revenue and even the ability to execute digital campaigns depend on improving understanding of the realities of today and forming a game plan to get to the other side of this transition successfully.
Closing the 'action gap'
When it comes to preparing for a post-cookie world, too many are sitting back and waiting for others to figure it out for them and not pick up the ball themselves.
Perhaps most concerning of all, a considerable majority of marketers essentially do not think the end of cookies matters all that much.
Yes, you read that right.
According to the survey, 71% said they didn’t see the end of cookies dramatically impact their purchasing behavior for digital ads.
There seems to be a feeling in the industry that boils down to this: “If I don’t look at privacy and identify shifts directly in the eye, then they won’t impact me.”
While there is a knowledge gap between understanding the problem and pinpointing solutions, my colleague Airey Baringer III, director of product line management, privacy, at TripleLift, says it could more accurately be described as an “action gap.” As he puts it: “The most important part of the coming shifts won’t be the knowing—it will be the doing.”
Suppose marketers do not do their due diligence on the direct impact or the potential solutions to ensure future success. In that case, they run the risk of media plans not delivering on their objectives.
Succeeding the day after
The Y2K danger was averted because experts recognized a problem and decision-makers gave it attention despite the uncertainty. Yes, some of it was overblown, but there were also real issues that got solved.
Hopefully, we’ll deride “our cookieless future” similarly in the future and joke about the hype. And, the promise of digital marketing doesn’t suddenly disappear.
It won’t if we start taking action now.
There are resources available to help marketers be successful, they just need to seek them out.