Cookies and the protection of personal data are current topics in the current conversation. To understand what cookies are and how we interact with them, I interviewed Martin Hernan CarnigliaExecutive Director of Data and Marketing Science at R/GA, a global innovation and marketing company.

Martín joined the R/GA team just over three years ago. R/GA, whose headquarters are in New York, USA, has more than 1,000 collaborators in various parts of the world. They are focused on digital marketing, advertising, design and technology.

Besides, Martin it is Founding Member and Leader of the Data & Analytics Council of Argentina; space created for data analysis in Latin America and standardize terms and definitions. Previously, for six years, he was a member of the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) Association that brings together interactive advertising companies from the main markets in the world.

What are cookies?

—Cookies are small text files that are downloaded on all mobile devices and on all desktop computers used to browse web pages. Cookies allow any site you visit, for example a newspaper or an electronic commerce platform, to identify and track the activity within that page and can remember, for example, configuration of idiom either credentials login or past behavior.

When we visit a site on a recurring basis and that site “remembers” what my language preferences were, the geographical location where we are, home delivery costs or what products I was looking at, it shows me related products, it shows me what had added to my cart. All of that is recorded in these small files that are uploaded inside a certain folder on the computer or mobile device. They are a kind of historical archive, making an analogy, is like a notebook; websites keep track of what we do. All of that is what cookies were conceived for in 1994 or so.

Over the years, cookies emerged that track information and were generated by each site in a particular way. These cookies are called first party cookiesthey are first-hand because they are created by the same site.

Then a concept was introduced that has been quite revolutionary, especially for the world of marketing: the third-party cookies (third party cookies). To cite an example, when visiting a newspaper, there may be files that do not belong to that same newspaper, but are a cookie from Google or Facebook or from an advertising platform or from different tools that allowed cross-segmentation. So, the behavior of a user’s navigation is not specific site by site, but by crossing browsing habits on different websites.

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Based on this, it can be known that a person who visited a newspaper site, who is interested in sports, who usually buys certain products online and who connects to the Internet at certain times. This cross-browsing vision has been possible for about 10 or 15 years until now, thanks to third-party cookies.

These cookies are what allow the entire Adtech industry (technology applied to advertising) to connect the user experience on different websites, different sessions and segment when running campaigns.

What happens if a person does not accept cookies on a website?

—There is a certain paradox. On the one hand, issues related to privacy and data security generate a certain paranoia in users because they feel invaded. As a result, regulations began to emerge. One of the first was in Europe, within the framework of a series of laws called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

These regulations force brands to ask for explicit permission from people, so that they know what data are they collecting and for what. It is recommended that each user is responsible and knows how they will use their data and how far they want to share or not. Most systems allow you to select certain features on what you are willing to share.

When a user rejects those ads or does not accept, it is very likely that they will not be able to access the site or the application. If you do agree, typically what will happen is that you will find yourself with a navigation and experience that is too depersonalized. A part that is very rich and highly valued is lost. Therefore, it will greatly affect what we are used to.

What cookies are disappearing?

—Cookies have been around for at least 25 years. In that progression of passing from first hand cookies at third-party cookies or created from other platforms, a tracking emerged that began to be too open and with information that could become sensitive.

The first factor is that cookies were conceived in the 90’s, in the most incipient stage of the internet. Therefore, the technology they use is very outdated. They are a solution focused on browsers and the initial behavior that was desktop computers.

If a user uses multiple devicessomething very frequent, that begins to generate friction, because it is difficult to generate traceability through those cookies that were created for that desktop world.

The second factor: security and privacy. Users much more informed and concerned about privacy. They take a different look at the kind of data collection that the advertising industry shares without one’s consent.

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The third factor has to do with a posture that mixes already inadequate technology and data security concepts. Given this, the large technology companies (Apple, Google, Facebook) take a stand.

Apple took a strong stance on its mobile devices with the release of its new operating systems, from version iOS 14 onwards. They require apps to ask for more explicit permissions to share their data. Then Facebook, forced by scandals like Cambridge Analytics, changed many of its policies. For its part, Google, who is the owner of the browser used by more than 60% of people globally (Chrome), defined that as of 2022, then postponed the date to 2023, determined the disappearance of third-party cookies and other less invasive and more transparent systems begin to be used.

In all cases, they aim to maintain the ability to segment or understand behavior, but preventing people from being individualized or associating online browsing with identifiable or sensitive personal data.

It is false to think that cookies will no longer exist. The tracking system will be complemented by the data that the user provides voluntarily and the third party data.

What changes will there be on the web and in digital marketing with the modification of cookies?

“There are three levels of impact. The first is the way cross range was historically measured. In other words, one ran a campaign and could find out which media had impacted the user and the online path they had traveled. Those kinds of measurements will be limited. The Information gathering it will be more statistical and not individualized.

When it comes to retargeting or segmentation, it should also be based on interests or contextual targeting. For example, relating a product to sites with a certain content or theme and not thinking so much about the person behind it, but about the context (locating the brand based on what is happening around it).

And then there are limitations that come from attribution models. Advertisers should not be closed to a single platform, but to several solutions dedicated to digital advertising that can compete against the big players and compare advantages and disadvantages of the measurement systems offered by each one. Publishers (content publishers) will have to deepen their understanding of their audience and find ways to identify their users, for example through people voluntarily giving their data in exchange for valuable content. And thus monetize your inventory.

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