A Cookie-less Ecosystem

Google plans to eliminate third-party cookies from its Chrome browser, utilizing machine learning that will ultimately replace the browser cookie altogether.

A Cookie-less Ecosystem

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Today’s internet users are increasingly concerned about their personal data being tracked online. According to a study by Pew Research Center, over 80% of online users say privacy risks outweigh the benefits of sharing personal data with advertisers. As a result, major tech companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook are changing how they collect, store, and share personal information, paving the way towards a safer internet experience. Apple is making app permission requests more transparent whereas Google plans to eliminate third-party cookies from its Chrome browser, utilizing machine learning that will ultimately replace the browser cookie altogether. In this journey of improving user’s privacy, advertisers must fully embrace the industry changes to ensure marketing campaigns remain effective. Although these changes have similar objectives around consumer privacy, the digital environment (app vs. web) and roll out plans vary in their impact and action plan.


iOS 14.5 Update, Spring 2021

When iPhone users update to iOS 14.5, apps will automatically remove all tracking of users on their phones and tablets. App developers will need to release a prompt specific for their app to allow the user to opt-in to being tracked. Tracking will be very limited or not available at all on users who have not opted in. Current estimates project a 20-25% opt-in rate (Source: Forbes, January 22, 2021). This will vary by app.

What does this mean for my digital campaigns?

  • Mobile app-heavy players like Facebook will take the biggest hit and the impact will be beyond iOS users. This update will negatively impact performance on conversion campaigns, remarketing, lookalike audiences, Facebook’s targeting capabilities and tagging for all campaigns.
  • Beginning in March, reporting from the Facebook platform will reflect the new default attribution window (7 day click, 1 day view), which will be applied to historical data as well.
  • Apple will not share as much data on what users do when they leave an app environment, so campaigns will show much lower performance via less conversions. This does not mean the ad campaign is less effective, it just means we will not have visibility into the full performance.


Google to drop Cookies January 2022

Chrome browser will not allow third-party technology to collect cookies after this year, but will continue to collect data from their services, such as Gmail, Maps and YouTube. Client websites will continue tracking with their own first-party cookies. They do not offer any cross-site functionality but can store user activity within a publisher’s ecosystem.

What can we do?

Moving to either cohort (clustering large groups with similar interests) or ID-based targeting will be ways of reaching desired audiences.

What does this mean for my targeting & measurement?

  • The industry will favor AI and modeling as solutions for cookie loss.
  • Because of serious limitations on third-party data, advertisers will have to shift toward reliance on contextual targeting and first- and second-party data, including CRM, subscriptions, customer surveys data and Amazon/Facebook/Google data.
  • Currently many people delete both first- and third-party cookies within a month of visiting a website, so alternative solutions for cookies should eventually improve the quality for advertising.
Harmelin’s Three-Tiered Approach

With the increased focus on user privacy, the industry is going through a dramatic change in how advertisers will be able to target users and measure performance for digital marketing campaigns. With new announcements coming weekly, the industry is still working through the impact of each of these changes and figuring out the best way forward. We are focused on guiding our clients through these changes through the following:

  • Education: We have created a cross-agency taskforce dedicated to traversing this new landscape which includes monitoring industry changes. We are leveraging our preferred partnerships with Google and Facebook to educate our teams on the impact of these changes and to provide answers to specific client needs and questions.
  • Communication: Harmelin’s taskforce will continue to collect, organize, and share relative information as it becomes available throughout this year to ensure our clients experience minimal loss of data and measurement within their marketing campaigns.
  • Action Plan: We have already released action steps for Facebook on the impact of iOS 14.5 to ensure our clients are set up and ready for these changes. We will be developing an action plan for each marketing channel as well as for each client.


We are here to help

While this may be temporarily disruptive, we feel these changes will ultimately provide a better ecosystem for users as well as for advertisers. As these changes continue, we are dedicated to ensuring our clients remain well positioned for the future. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or require additional guidance.