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Episode 18

How Does The Death Of Third-Party Cookies Impact Digital Marketing?

Tony Mastri
Digital Strategist & Tech Lead at Tenlo

The eventual death of third-party cookies and the impact on lead generation has been a hot topic in our industry for quite some time. But now the end is here.

Digital Marketers are already seeing disruptions in campaigns running on third-party websites and social media properties. Not to mention, in the data we’re accustomed to receiving from Google.

So, what’s next? How do we deliver quality targeting, experience, leads and results back to clients and leadership?

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Why Google and Apple have finally made consumer privacy a priority
  • Aboveboard alternatives for gathering data
  • Opportunities for brand differentiation during this privacy movement
  • Taking advantage of owned media
  • "Walled Gardens" and the impact on digital marketing
  • First-party data cookies

Watch the Live Recording

Full Episode Transcripts

Tessa Burg: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Lead(er )Generation brought to you by Tenlo Radio. Today, we have a really exciting episode. We’re gonna talk about the death of third-party cookies and what it means for your online visibility. Our guest today is a digital strategist and tech lead here at Tenlo, Tony Mastri. Tony, thank you so much for joining us.

Tony Mastri: Yeah, absolutely. I’m thrilled to be here.

Tessa Burg: Awesome, so this is a big topic, getting lots of press and making a lot of our clients nervous. Before we dive in we wanna learn a little bit about you. Tell us about your background and what brought you to Tenlo to be a digital strategist.

Tony Mastri: Great, okay. So I guess I’ll just start with kind of my college days. I was a little confused about what I wanted to really get into. I knew I was decent at math, I tried my hand in secondary math education and that just wasn’t something I saw myself doing longterm. I ended up switching into computer science and kind of the opposite end of the spectrum. So those two extremes kind of caused me to start looking for, what can I do in the middle? And that’s where marketing kind of came into play.

Tony Mastri: So it had a lot of the technical side, especially in digital marketing of what computer science offered, but then some of the communications and creative pieces that teaching kind of leverages. Landed on marketing and ended up loving it, had an internship while I was still in school. And that’s where I was kind of introduced to SEO. Didn’t really talk about SEO, a lot of the digital components of marketing when I was in college, but my internship kind of exposed me to the broader world of digital marketing. Kind of fell in love with SEO, or what I thought was SEO at the time. Ended up being kind of some wild West version of SEO.

Tony Mastri: But yeah, then from there moved in-house to a long long-term position with a software as a service company in Canton, Ohio and that’s where I really kind of learned some white hat SEO and how to make some future-proof SEO moves and things worked out really well there. Just really grew the audience, got a good handle on lead generation. And then, yeah, I made the move to Houston, Texas shortly after that. I met my now wife and then made the move down to Houston and switched to the agency side.

Tony Mastri: So I’ve been agency side for the past three and a half years, and then just recently started with Tenlo, looking to make move back to Cleveland. So very excited! I know that there are a lot of really knowledgeable people here, so very excited to learn a little bit more. Whereas a lot of my history has been some self-learned marketing content. So very excited to kind of fit in, see what a team can really provide to help me balance my subject matter expertise.

Tessa Burg: Nice! So I love that you have this lens of being in-house and you have the lens of working at an agency. Tell us from that perspective, what is the most important things for our clients to understand right now about the changes happening with third-party cookies?

Tony Mastri: Well, I think number one, one of the most important things is really not to panic. I think obviously there are changes coming and I say coming, one of these changes already happened. So don’t panic, but the two more concrete changes that are coming and have already just happened are the iOS 14.5 update that’s a big privacy update that just hit on April 26th.

Tony Mastri: And then the second one is Google’s announcement of the removal of third-party cookies sometime in 2021, I believe was the estimates. They really weren’t as concrete about theirs on when that would happen, but those are the two big things. And they both have big ramifications, but like I said, at the end of the day, do not panic.

Tony Mastri: These changes present big opportunities just like COVID hit. And obviously there was cause for alarm, but it presented a lot of opportunities that you could kind of be proactive about and take advantage of before everyone else came in and kind of saturated a strategic move. So there are things to be optimistic about.

Tessa Burg: That’s great. I think that’s good news for us and our clients that there are opportunities. Can you give us a couple examples of what that might look like?

Tony Mastri: Yeah. Well and that might be putting the cart before the horse. I do think the big opportunity that comes from this it’s really just focusing more on native advertising. And that’s something where I don’t know, for the most part you see a lot of affiliate advertising and that was maybe a decade ago, that was huge. That was very SEO based when SEO was a lot more easily gameable, but this is less, I guess affiliate marketing and more just true native advertising.

Tony Mastri: So third-party cookies disappear and iOS kind of imposes some more privacy walls around it’s app developers and native advertising becomes just a really, really future-proof. And I mean, that’s even before the internet, right? Native advertising was the only advertising. So you’re kind of just going back to your basics and kind of figuring out really what works, what will always work, and how do we increase our position in that strategy. So native advertising is huge there.

Tony Mastri: And then another thing that we’ll kind of look at too is owned media. And I guess not in the sense of, not even just in the sense of a website that you own that is definitely one big piece. And if anybody, I mean everybody’s kind of read a HubSpot blog article at any point, but they’re very big on owned media, and build your own audience, and here’s how you do that with SEO and PPC, and social.

Tony Mastri: And that’s huge, but then there’s also another component that is more, I guess explicit about the word ‘owned’ there. And that’s something that a lot of these big companies like HubSpot, they now own The Hustle. They found an outlet that resonates directly with their target audience and they bought that news outlet. Or you look at even Amazon. I’m pretty sure Jeff Bezos owns what is that, I think the Washington Post, right? So they literally own a news outlet that they kind of, it provides them a lot more first-party data and some opportunities that other people wouldn’t be able to access with some of these privacy moves. And then even like Warren Buffet, like some of these big players, he owns several news outlets.

Tony Mastri: So there are two different things you can kind of mean by owned media. They’re owning your own site and building your own audience, but also are there advertising opportunities to where instead of paying someone to consistently be putting your content on their platform, can you just buy the platform and really own kind of a publishing house under your own umbrella? So those are a couple of things, obviously not for everyone, not everyone’s in a position to go buy some news outlet, but recently some of those moves have been made. So very interesting to see.

Tessa Burg: That is interesting. I think one thing we’ve seen with our clients is even starting to create their own communities, like on their properties and with their content, with their clients. There feel like things are moving in that direction to become more of you’re not just a business that provides me a product or a specific service, but there’s value in the relationship. And that relationship, especially since the pandemic, is largely online, or can be online.

Tony Mastri: Right, right, right. And that’s, I think that kind of goes full circle with… I think Google over the years that has turned from a technology company and how do we deliver search results, into what we see today where they’re really kind of just mimicking the physical world and what trust signals do people look at in the physical world. And it’s come full circle to where they’re just trying to basically emulate advertising and marketing before the internet existed. And that’s kind of what we see then today with everything else where it’s coming full circle and building a community. That’s something that happened before the internet existed, that’s how you got the word out about something. And we’d finally gotten to that point where it’s a little more authentic and future-proof, not just internet tactics.

Tessa Burg: Yes, so why do you think companies like Google and Apple are rolling out these privacy measures now?

Tony Mastri: So I do believe a lot of this is political and a lot of it is just optics. There’ve been huge pushes obviously, especially I think a lot of this started in the EU and you see Google getting hit just about every year with like billions of dollars in fines for different privacy violations, and so there’s been a big push.

Tony Mastri: And then I know it kind of that same push got its foothold in California in the US. And so you see everything, from the little opt-in cookie policies, the GDPR stuff that’s across everyone’s website, but it is still very much a default announcement, like, hey, we’re opting you in, click here to continue browsing our site and to get rid of the banner, you just kind of have to click it and get it out of the way.

Tony Mastri: I don’t think people know a lot of behind the scenes moves, but really there has been a big push and they are trying to get out in front of it, they’re trying to regulate themselves a little bit so that they don’t have some sort of government agency coming in to regulate them. But that being said, obviously it’s a political thing. So they’re being very strategic about that. I think the privacy pushes they’re putting in place are kind of designed to be irritating upfront. So they’re kind of making the moves that they’re like, hey here’s what we’re doing for privacy, things are going to be better for you now, does this feel better? And just about everyone is like, no this was like the worst, why would you change this? But they’re just trying to basically, I don’t know, they’re moving in that direction and kind of asking us along the way, do you like this, is this what you imagined? And they’re very intentionally the most irritating thing.

Tony Mastri: So no, not what we imagined. It’s a very much an optics thing. Do you want us to keep doing this? And I think they’re almost trying to get people to say, no, do what you want with our data, we don’t care, this is very annoying, so please stop. That’s kind of the political push that I’m seeing, but really it is in response to real world concerns from not even just people, but nations across the board and that’s why they’re making these moves.

Tessa Burg: Yes, and I think some actual business on the advertiser side has also been disrupted. What are some things that us as an agency, or clients can do to start improving tracking, especially like our Facebook campaigns, or any programmatic campaigns, what are some steps we can take to improve?

Tony Mastri: Okay, so there are a few things that aren’t necessarily in our hands, but we will be able to leverage to improve. And so that’s Google, they announced that they will be eliminating third-party cookies, but they’re not just gonna pull the rug from under us. They did say we’ll have some kind of half measure aggregated results that you’ll be able to tap into. So they created this Privacy Sandbox to test these changes. So instead of third-party cookies, here’s what we’re gonna have.

Tony Mastri: In general their main solution has been pointing to the, it’s called FLoC, it’s the Federated Learning of Cohorts and so that’s kind of a replacement. And then they have another replacement that they’re calling FLEDGE, it’s the First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups Experiment. So obviously a mouthful, so they made some acronyms to kind of fit those together. So FLEDGE and I mean, these can be very confusing when you get into them, but really FLoC is interest based targeting that uses kind of aggregated hiding the crowd techniques that can kind of provide some of this retargeting capability. It is a little bit more watered down. And then FLEDGE is more category based instead of interest based targeting. And so really these are things, instead of targeting individual browser with a cookie, maybe you add to their browser some sort of category, like you visited a website that fits under this category and so now you’re grouped into this bucket of people who have visited this category within the last 30 days.

Tony Mastri:So that’s kind of one of the replacements that they’re looking at as a feasible option to use instead of individual targeting. So that will be something that we will have access to. And I guess why even entertain FLEDGE and FLoC? FLoC is a little more obvious, you need some sort of replacement if you’re just gonna take something away, but FLEDGE kind of came into play because there are a lot of ad tech companies like Criteo and NextRoll. And I would imagine even like Adroll, right?

Tony Mastri: These tech companies would essentially have no footing to provide the service they’re providing. A lot of these have a ton of funding and investors, some of those might even be public companies to where Google would just completely make pretty much an anti-competitive move and shut these companies down. So if they are doing all of this, I guess in light of these big privacy moves and being hit with antitrust lawsuits left and right, this is a very bad move to make without coming up with a replacement.

Tony Mastri: So FLEDGE is kind of an answer to how do we do this without getting in even bigger trouble. And so that’s where it really comes in and they’re kind of offering these watered down solutions. And there are actually some numbers on that too. So they’ve been doing FLoC testing in their Privacy Sandbox to see is this a viable replacement? And a lot of their tests show that the, I guess FLoC strategy for retargeting it’s about 95% effective. You get 95% of conversions per dollar compared to the cookie retargeting, so third-party cookie retargeting, which is not great, especially if you’re spending tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars, a loss of 5% of those conversions, you just threw away potentially tens of thousands, or even, it should be up to millions in really, really large large organizations. So it is a little disheartening to see, but those are two, I guess more apples for apples solutions that you could look at.

Tony Mastri: Other ways around it’s kind of what we talked about with native ads. So find a news outlet that really, really aligns to what your, or several news outlets, really aligns to the target audience that you’re going after and try to strike a deal with them on getting placements for some of your more popular products or even exclusivity, if it makes sense, if they’re that well aligned with your audience targeting.

Tony Mastri: And then a lot of that too is what you had mentioned, Tessa, where it’s really you need to build up your own community. What can you do today with architect marketing automation to build up your subscribers list? It gives you a direct line to your customers and a lot of times those people are going to know other people that could, I mean, really if you had no other third party help, it’s gonna give you a line to friends and friends of friends of your most, I guess, aligned target audience. So use marketing automation today to build your first party subscriber lists before these things disappear, right?

Tessa Burg: Yes, I totally agree. That’s a great suggestion, but it’s a lot of manual work as we know. So sometimes those substitutes are what you need in the short run as you begin to build the content and the strategy for that. So one thing that I find interesting is they are being very strategic about this rollout, they’re balancing these political considerations so then why have other browsers like Safari and Firefox declined to include these new privacy, air quotes, improvements into their own platforms?

Tony Mastri: So actually that is interesting because I don’t think it’s a highly visible thing just because market share is so low for a lot of these other browsers, but many of these people by default already don’t use third-party cookies. So a lot of this stuff is just gone already, but the fact that Chrome has a 65% of global browser market share, that kind of makes that the more visible, more painful move. But a lot of these other browsers already kind of have those privacy measures in place, it’s just not as talked about, I guess. So I know that obviously there are some gaps there and I’m not gonna pretend to know one by one which one does have the same thing going on, which doesn’t. So I can’t really speak to that, but it would probably surprise you to know that this is something that has already kind of been rolled out on the lesser browsers, lesser, I guess just in respect to their market share.

Tessa Burg: Hmm, that is interesting. And I wonder, and maybe it’s because personally I’m a little suspicious of Google, is there a danger to consumers? Are these all above board changes, or are some of these ultimately sort of benefiting Google exclusively?

Tony Mastri: So I think most of these, and that was kind of what I had said, they’re trying to regulate themselves, but doing it in a way that is the most painful to everyone, just so that people stop asking for it. But really most of these will benefit Google. So if you’re looking at the Federated Learning of Cohorts, that really it’s owned by Google, right? So you almost have to play with them if you’re going to get anything done. And even these ad tech companies that I mentioned, most of them are petitioning Google for these replacements and what the replacements need to look like for them to be able to continue their business without being completely cut out of the equation.

Tony Mastri: So Google is basically, I don’t know, kind of an anti competitive move on their part. They’ve they built up this wonderful garden of, look at all these tools that people have available to them. I say people meaning users, people that use Google search as well as advertisers. And then once they have the majority market share, they throw the walls up and put the wall around their garden. So it really creates kind of a walled garden around these tools that people had just built million if not billion dollar businesses around. And now you have to play ball directly with Google.

Tony Mastri: Actually the same thing, there’ve been a lot of complaints recently, especially since 4.26, when Apple’s privacy update rolled out. And that’s, I haven’t really talked about that much up to this point, but it’s kind of the same, there’s almost a sinister undertone to the whole thing. So they put these privacy measures in place to where the app developers have to get opt in consent. Whereas before it was just like default, you’re opted in. If you want to take away cross app activity and tracking, and data on all of these things, you have to tell us. But now they they’ve kind of flip-flopped that. So you have to tell them upfront if you would like to give it to them. The default is not letting them track you across apps and internet properties.

Tony Mastri: So there’s a lot of advertising that happens within that that people have been able to do themselves. But now that these privacy measures have gone into place, Apple is advertising. And I mean, they have a few different places they advertise, but one of those really is the app store. And a lot of this, a lot of the app advertising that is run can be done through Apple, but it can also be done through third parties. Now that this update has rolled out, the third parties can still do it, but they have to use a lot of the Apple data that has been scrubbed and aggregated, and there’s a lag on that. So they might have to wait up to three days to get that aggregated data on, are my ads working, are people converting and interacting with them. And then on top of that, it is less comprehensive data than Apple is able to provide themselves. So Apple gets a competitive advantage really by putting these in place. And now you almost have to go through Apple if you want the real-time data on your advertising across different apps. And more comprehensive, you’re able to get a little bit more granular data on what’s happening, at least that. So that’s actually been something that the Wall Street Journal just recently reported on.

Tony Mastri: But in both cases there, the data that Google and Apple have, that they own really, at this point, you almost have to use those if you want to make par for the course at this point. Using third parties puts you at a disadvantage. And so I think that’s long run that’s going to hurt them with the antitrust stuff. And that’s why you kind of see these half measures on like, well, here’s a replacement, it’s only 95% effective and you’re gonna have to spend more money to get the same results.

Tony Mastri: But if they don’t do that, then maybe that means billion dollar fines every year again, in the US this time. So a lot of this is, like I said, very political, there are a lot of optics that they’re trying to get out in front of, but at the end of the day I feel like the strategic moves that they’re making, there are better things you can do to, I guess, hit privacy upfront that don’t directly benefit the ad providers, or the platform providers. But those aren’t what they chose to go with for now.

Tessa Burg: Yes, man, you hit a lot there! So if I were to break some of this down. Right now this might feel to a lot of marketers like a thorn in their side, but there is an opportunity to really improve the experience for our customers and clients by starting to think about what other tools we have in our toolbox outside of Google and Apple and other big players in the social networks. And I love the phrase that you used about, we’re really trying to emulate what marketing started as before the internet.

Tony Mastri: Right.

Tessa Burg: And what can we do to not just own the data, but also have that relationship where people know exactly what’s being tracked and what they’re sharing and that sharing actually benefits them. And I feel like that was the promise back in the day when search and even social networks began. It was like, yeah, we provide this for free and the data you share actually benefits you. And it kind of, it’s gotten real blurry.

Tony Mastri: Yeah, definitely.

Tessa Burg: And for companies that play above board, or can commit to being more transparent there definitely is an opportunity.

Tony Mastri: Yeah, yes, definitely. And like you said, I guess the more genuine the message, it really kind of has raised the standard. I would say that’s the one big positive that’s come out of this, it raises the standard. Even with SEO these days, it’s no longer a tactics based like, well just buy a bunch of sketchy private blog network links, and the tactics have been stripped out and you have to have good content, and even five years ago, well good content just means this many words, it has to include these different keywords, and these secondary keywords. And now, today you can’t have good content without really insightful well-written content. Then now the algorithm updates like SMITH and Pars and there’s just so much more to it that really it almost has come full circle and you need to have legitimately good content, good messaging, things that resonate with your audience. You can’t just brute-force tactic your way through this, it has to actually be real strategy. So that is you’re right, that is the big positive that’s come out of this.

Tessa Burg: That’s great. So Tony, thank you so much for joining us today. And this is a lot of next steps for us and for marketers to chew on. But I’m excited. I’m excited to see what will happen as these standards get raised, the creativity that will come out, like you said, similar to the pandemic, a lot of things took a downturn, but marketers adjusted and sales teams, and we still were able to generate leads and engage people in meaningful ways. And I feel like that’s what’s about to happen here again.

Tony Mastri: Yeah, absolutely.

Tessa Burg: So if people wanted to get in touch with you how can they find you?

Tony Mastri: Well, you can find me on LinkedIn, just search for Tony or Anthony Mastri. And I guess you could reach me through Tenlo as well. But truly, if you’re interested in any sort of subject matter expertise, just contact Tenlo, there are many smarter people than myself. So definitely reach out to reach out to Tenlo and we’ll hook you up with an entire team of Tony pluses that’ll help.

Tessa Burg: Well, thanks, Tony. And just in case so that people email you specifically, it’s [email protected].

Tony Mastri

Digital Strategist & Tech Lead at Tenlo

Tony is an experienced digital marketing strategist. He has a proven background in content strategy, technical SEO and performance marketing. With natural curiosity and a strong drive for continuous improvement, Tony leverages data to make informed decisions that drive client growth.