The inevitability of a “cookieless future” looms in the not-so-distant future as marketers scramble to learn  what is to come. Ad tech companies whose bread-and-butter solutions comprise of behavioral targeting will need to adapt to survive. As we await the last major domino to fall – Google Chrome going cookieless in 2023 – there are whirlwinds of speculation and unanswered questions regarding strategy and targeting.

If you’re a digital marketer, you may have stumbled into issues earlier this year when Apple iOS 14.5 changed the game for Facebook advertising. It was the first major hurdle as a part of an effort to maintain privacy, which allows users to opt out of tracking. If a user who opted out then clicks an ad and submits a form on the website, the conversion doesn’t get attributed to the original source, thus creating gaps in data. It was first reported by Bloomberg just a couple months back that 75% of the world’s iPhone users downloaded this new update, although only 25% of those users have enabled tracking.

If this is any indicator of how the future will go, we’re doomed… right?

Not necessarily.

If you have enough audience data, particularly first-party (1P), you can still generate custom audience segments within each platform. First-party data is information about users that your business has collected, such as email addresses, which can be implemented to attract new users who share similar characteristics. It’s arguably the most significant data point you can get on a user.

The collection of zero-party data has been emerging as of late, given the user willingly provides information. If you’ve visited YouTube and clicked on a video, you may have seen a survey prompting if you recognize brands or are interested in services. Those are used for both brand recall as well as information to use at a later point in time. Real estate would be a good example of a vertical within which this could be executed. Surveys would be shown to users garnering their interest in moving, which amenities are most important to them, and when they’re looking to move. An ad could be shown to them closer to their specified move date featuring creative of the amenities most important to the user.

Aggregating personal identifiable information (PII) is always a tough ask, and a costly one at that. Having a strong grasp on audience personas, particularly, who they are and where they digest the most digital media. A health services provider, for example, could appear on contextually relevant articles and websites related to their services. A user could be reading about a new procedure in which an ad could appear on that page with creative relative to that service line in order to drive the user to the website.

Oh, there are several solutions, I should be all set then, right?

Well… not exactly.

Cookies have proven to be extremely valuable in the marketing world, almost to the point where it’s too big to fail. One of the reasons Google Chrome was delayed until mid-2023 for blocking new cookies is because they haven’t developed the technology to replace it. As it’s currently presumed, remarketing in its traditional form will die as you no longer have the ability to follow users via cookies. It will also be the end of multi touch attribution and the ability to cross-target devices, seemingly backing publishers and marketers into a corner of unknown filled with what-ifs.

As with Google, other companies have already started looking into technology that assists with identifying user behavior and attributes. Although the “silver bullet” solution doesn’t exist right now, maintain faith as “time is the wisest counselor of all.”