Brain Nordic on the end of 3rd party cookies, and what comes after…

Brain Nordic on the end of 3rd party cookies, and what comes after…

My name is Martin Bergqvist and I am the CEO of Digital Brain Nordic, a “martech” company that focus on marketing data. Brain stems from the Swedish morning press and was initiated by Stampen, Mittmedia, Promedia, NLT, VLT and Norran, to solve the publishers data problems. So that they would be better positioned against Google & Facebook on the local markets, armed with more and better data.

But for different reasons the project didn’t take off in a broader sense, instead many of the media houses choose to focus on their own data projects. But with nearly a decade of experience from data in publishing I can say this: the problem for publishers in Sweden today isn’t that they need their own data platform (that generates a significant tech-debt by only being used by one customer). The problem isn’t that you need unique data (the most used data at Facebook is age, gender, interests and of course lookalikes).

The problem is that you lack reach in the data you have on your own, you get a low “data saturation” in your inventory and you have too few relevant data for advertisers. These are problems Brain was created to solve.

But back to the issue at hand: Why is cookies dying out like the dinosaurs?

Because GDPR and a broader movement amongst the users in privacy, integrity and awareness about personal data has forced a shift in technology on a global scale. Legislation has forced the industry to stop tracking users online on a technical level. And given the users better control over their personal information. This is positive for all of us as individuals I think.


From the marketing industry perspective things are upside down. It is getting harder or even impossible to evaluate your marketing the way it has been done before. The marketing channels become more as silos that are focusing on different KPIs and different datasets that aren’t easily comparable. Targeting with good reach is getting harder (unless you are a global data business).

IAB (who we are a member of) has done an extensive job at highlighting the problems that arise when 3rd party cookies goes away in their guide to post 3rd party cookies. They see the following challenges for marketers:

  • Frequency capping is becoming near impossible
  • Transfer of marketers 1st party data for use with publishers
  • Transfer of publishers 1st party data for extended reach
  • Optimisation of ad copy and messages in advertising
  • DMPs are unable to transfer data in the same extent
  • Indirect effect (visits that aren’t from clicks) get harder to verify and prove

I see these challanges as 3 main parts from a commercial perspective:

  1. The user experience of advertising may become less personalised and thereby less effective
  2. The use of data for ad targeting becomes harder
  3. The effect of advertising gets harder to evaluate

If we put these challenges in a commercial and user perspective we might say:

  1. Users today want a tailored Internet with content and ads that are relevant for them, and if it isn’t they don’t even want to know about it. But at the same time they do NOT want to share their personal data and be tracked on the Internet.
  2. Advertisers want to know whet their marketing does for their bottom line and be able to optimise their marketing to target the “right” consumers. But they do NOT want to risk GDPR-fines of 4%.

So what should we as marketers and players in “martech” do?

One solution that has entered the scene as a contender is the unified IDs that are operating on a global level. This might in the worst case be a work around that will work as long as legislation and tech giants like Apple allow them to. If this work around means that the functionality of 3rd party cookies is maintained when it comes to tracking and uncontrolled transfer of data, then there is a clear risk that they will also be blocked long term.

I and many with me consider the transfer of data and exposure of user data online to be done preferably without the sharing of IDs and tracking of users outside of the environment where they gave their consent. Because truth be told, as soon as an ID is shared and linked to a piece of personal information it becomes hard or near impossible to ensure a controlled and safe usage of the information down the tech chain. And if you don’t rely on cookie matching to transfer data it is possible to increase the data saturation in your inventory.

But how do we do that? There is a new solution that makes it possible for publishers to target advertising without cookie matching or sharing IDs. And does it with the same or better accuracy than audiences based on 3rd party cookies. This approach and technology makes it possible for publishers to use the data in a responsible way and ensure that the data doesn’t float downstream and into the hands of those that shouldn’t have it.

It is also possible to create lookalikes based on advertisers 1st party data, connected to publishers 1st party data, without the use of cookies and IDs. This type of “offline lookalikes” can actually be bought from Stampen, Mediekompaniet and in Sweden today, if you analyse your customers and visitors through our services. This means that both publishers and advertisers can get reach in their 1st party data in a integrity mindful way.

With this I want to say that some of the problems that IAB list in their study has actually already been solved, and are live today. We are surely not alone with this type of solutions, but at the same time I think we are at the forefront thanks to our history.

The solutions I mentioned does not solve frequency capping, ad optimisation or validation of marketing campaigns. Those are other issues. A possible approach could be to separate the transfer of data and “technical IDs”, i.e. IDs used to optimize the user experience, but separated from user data. This type of approach could maintain user integrity online but at the same time make it possible to frequency cap, validate and optimise. This is a conceptual idea for now but fully doable I think.

And if we split the problem into smaller parts we don’t have to solve everything with one magical silver bullet. I think that if we ensure that user data is integrity safe online then we can solve the technical parts in regard to optimization and delivery separately.

And I also think that if all of us who work in “martech” and digital marketing put the integrity of the users as a main focus longterm, then we can together solve the challenges facing us short term. And at the same time make the Internet a safer place for users and more balanced for publishers and advertisers in regard to google adn Facebook, who already have the data saturation other marketing channels lack.

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