Matt Sheppard (Impact): Cookies. It’s been sweet but it’s time to say goodbye!

Matt Sheppard, Customer Success Manager EMEA Impact, has worked in the performance marketing industry  for over seven years and has held senior roles at cashback giant Quidco as well as Navigate Digital where he founded the Sydney office. He is currently Customer Success Manager for Radius by Impact; managing accounts for key advertisers such as Ticketmaster, Revolut and Secret Escapes.

After the Affiliate Summit Europe, he offered us an insider’s opinion regarding cookies, APIs and why is time to say farewell to cookies.

Amsterdam played host to this years’ Affiliate Summit Europe and one of the much debated topics was the reliability of tracking and its importance to the effectiveness of Performance Marketing. While alternative solutions have long existed, cookie based tracking has been the ‘go-to’ for solution providers and advertisers. It has developed allowing marketers greater capabilities to measure user behaviour and market to potential customers. At the same time becoming arguably more pervasive and impacting the privacy of users. This in part led to GDPR and more recently iterations of Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). For better or worse, these changes have eroded the ability of advertisers to ‘cookie’ users and glean information about users.  While there is some debate about the impact of the forthcoming ITP 2.1 release the performance marketing industry can get on the front foot and circumvent the changes – why wait for the ground to crumble beneath you when you could climb to higher ground. At AS Europe industry colleagues that I spoke to are still exploring the options and seeking out the right solutions.  

For me the best solution here is the smart use of APIs (Application Programming Interface) to link tracking platforms and advertiser data. At Impact we use our Page load API to create an identifier (when a page or app loads) for a given user that is stored server side by the advertiser. When that user completes the action that our advertiser desires they pass back that identifier and the action recorded and the publisher rewarded. This eliminates the need for cookie consent, ad blocking and probabilistic tracking methods which in turn future proofs tracking capabilities. This API route is device agnostic so partners are rewarded for driving web, mobile or in-app actions when properly configured within the performance marketing platform.   

Marketers may choose to maintain cookie based tracking and track mobile through other means. A work around is the integration to a retailer’s mobile app through their Mobile Marketing Platform (MMP) or Customer Data Platform (CDP) but such an integration must be well thought out and executed so not to risk overloading the affiliate platform. Alternatively an advertiser might choose to integrate a tracking partner’s software development kit (SDK) to report in-app actions, but these require regular updates, can be vulnerable to 3rd party hijack if poorly maintained and continue to be ‘frankentech’ (a hacking together of different technologies) rather than the joined up solution that Marketers really need. 

Thus the direct integration with the advertiser’s technology provider to allow APIs to identify users and track conversions across device types is the smart solution and likely to be the future state for tracking and attribution. That is not to say that the use of server side tracking is panacea. It requires client side expertise and oversight to ensure that the implementation is done properly as well as a tracking platform which has the capability to manage what can be an astonishing load of data.    

Discussions at ASE 2019 on panels and around the conference raised more questions than answers on the issue of data and measurement. While there are a number of possible paths to take to get the clearest and most reliable tracking methods, it seems to me that taking cookies out of the equation will be the fastest way to get where performance marketers want and need to go. 

1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. There is absolutely no difference whatsoever between using cookies and passing identifiers via API when it comes to both GDPR and the ePrivacy Directive: Consent is required and will most likely be deemed invalid (as it has happened so far).

    Bottom line: the law was never about cookies (reason why they are not even mentioned once), but about cross-property/party/controller tracking requiring specific and unambiguous consent.

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