The Future of Online Tracking

The Future of Tracking
By the Austin Media Team | March 13, 2019

The future of tracking has been a prime discussion in the industry, and our Austin team is here to tackle the rumors and forecasts. Here, we are thrilled to walk you through the current state of the industry, why Just Media is in a prime position to tackle the issue, and what’s in store for our clients in the future.

The Cookie Crumbles – and someone will take the cake

Apple’s Safari browser received an update in 2018 that made waves in the marketing community – all cookies are now being blocked by default on both mobile and desktop devices.  Firefox and Chrome browsers, as well as Android devices, will likely follow suit soon. Other major events have recently put a brighter spotlight on this issue.  The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal has heightened consumer’s awareness of the security of personal information being held by various entities. Added privacy – even if only perceived – is now being viewed as a competitive advantage for software and IT brands.

Even though the Safari news received a lot of attention, the move towards a cookie-less world has begun much earlier as many mobile phones have already blocked cookies by default and more and more of the overall web-traffic is moving to mobile devices.  Tracking activity between various apps within the phone has been extremely difficult without the inclusion of SDKs that allow for this.  This shift has big implications for us as a media agency and our clients alike as many of the currently available targeting solutions rely on cookies.

Companies will soon no longer be able to rely on their own cookie pools, and 3rd party data options are quickly fading as well. In fact, the European GDPR laws make it almost impossible to piece multiple data sets together and require companies to ask for the user’s permission to collect their data in the first place. This regulation will surely help to protect the user’s privacy and add transparency! – but there is another side to the coin. These regulations are likely benefiting the current 1st party data-collection heavyweights: Google, Facebook, and Amazon. These companies are well-known brands and we all are happy to exchange our data for the right to use much-loved services like YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and our favorite online warehouse and grocery store. We log into these platforms from all of our devices and from all over the globe. Smaller and lesser-known companies have to share their data with each other via DMP marketplaces to compete and this option is about to disappear. The future of targeting will rely on first-party data – and this future appears to be a bright one for the digital top dogs.

Contributed by Chris Becker

The Role of Cookies in Retargeting Campaigns and Data Targeting

A person can love or hate cookies but web cookies currently play a key role in digital advertising. Retargeting is possible because of cookie-based technology which collects data to make it possible to identify and recognize users. In fact, most people already incorporate some retargeting elements in their daily life. A user has likely encountered retargeting on many occasions because users are constantly browsing the web, using their smartphone, and opening accounts on social channels on a daily basis.

Cookies can be referred to as a code or small snippets of text that are placed on the backend of the sites, stored on the user’s browser, which sends a signal to serve ads and ensuring the ads are served to people who visited the website.  They are downloaded via the browser as users engage with various websites.  Web cookies are used for various functions such as activating retargeting ads, storing data, retaining data from forms, saving user preferences, saving user’s account details, and recording user’s activity. Cookies also store user data and behavior; information such as age, gender, location, interests, and many more. A user’s behavior and data can be stored from any website, search engines, and social media.

Data companies end up collecting and selling the data in order to push targeted product and services. While the data is typically scrubbed of any private data, there are always concerns with what is collected and shared.  Here at Just Media, we strive to work with approved data providers to package the data in order for us to target specific segments of the market and audience we are trying to reach, all while maintaining the privacy of the end users. Cookies are one of the main tools that help make the tracking of the user movement and collection of a user’s information possible.

As we move away from cookies, how will this impact retargeting?

Cookies can be recognized as a threat to a user’s privacy, but it very easy to block cookies now with the growth of ad blocker software, regulations, and the pressure from the public to demand big players like Google and Facebook adopt safe data practices.  The game is changing. Users are wanting more transparency and with the new GDPR policy in place, even in the US, and users must consent to place cookies on their computers and be aware of what the collected data will be used for.

Cookies have not crumbled completely but as we move away from cookie retargeting, we must pave way for new methods of retargeting and look forward to a future where retargeting is no longer depended only on cookies.

Helpful Resources:

Contributed by Amy Yos

Current Targeting Solutions

With the availability and use of cookies on the decline, targeting via device fingerprinting has become increasingly necessary. Device fingerprinting is a newer process used to identify a device based on its specific and unique configuration. While cookies are stored on a user’s device, device fingerprints are stored on the server side, in a database. A user’s fingerprint is created when they visit a website: a JavaScript tracker on the site collects all of the relevant device information, like browser type, OS, HTTP connection and more. A statistical model is then able to use the information from the user’s device fingerprint to piece together more details about the user.  Once a user’s fingerprint has been created, it is constantly updated as they interact with the resources that are being tracked by the company utilizing the fingerprinting.  This allows the company to keep a real-time record of a users’ internet habits.  For example, if a user logs in to the Facebook account on their laptop and then later logs in to the same account on their iPhone, both devices will be added to their unique fingerprint. This allows advertisers to utilize cross-device targeting- something that is not possible with cookies.

Helpful Resources:

Contributed By Darcy Child

The Move Towards People-Based Marketing

Personalization has become a major part of our everyday lives. We have Google Homes and Amazon Alexas to help us navigate our days and answer all of our questions. We have personally curated playlists on Spotify to keep us entertained and motivated throughout or days. Even our smart fridge and cars are built to cater to our individual wants and needs. The same goes for advertising and how businesses and consumers are reached. Every consumer and buyer have a personal journey to purchase, which highlights the importance for marketers and advertisers to target individual people rather than groups of people.

If the future of targeting is based on reaching individual users rather than groups of people, then People-Based Marketing is how marketers will do so in a very personalized way. This type of marketing relies on a combination of three things: behavioral data, user identification- and automation (for scale). Using those pieces of data, marketers can target individual people who are browsing across multiple devices and reach them wherever they are. This kind of deterministic data is much more accurate and therefore much more valuable than other forms of probabilistic data. While probabilistic or predictive data is still beneficial (for example, lookalike targeting models are still successful tactics) deterministic data takes the guessing out of any equation.

So the question is, how do marketers identify this individual user that is active across multiple devices? The answer is Persistent ID (aka fingerprinting). This identifier is formed by tapping into the deterministic data that is gathered from a platform that a user is logged into (i.e. Google, YouTube, social media account, or any other online account) across any device.  Because these companies are able to track behavior on multiple devices, they are able to build a more accurate and real-time model of user behavior and intent. The outcome is more accurate, more valuable data than what cookies were able to provide, especially with the limitations of cookies and tracking mobile activity. Since the data collected from Persistent ID is gathered from logged-in activity, it’s also a GDPR friendly way to reach users!

Helpful Resources:

Contributed by Roxanne Grau

The Cutting Edge

There are already a handful of companies that are thinking ahead of the curve.  Certain data collectors have moved beyond the cookie and rather than having your browser download a snippet of code, these data collectors are keeping real-time records of your activity with various touch points.  In real time, these companies are able to collect your ongoing activity and online journey regardless of device.  These companies create a new user ID any time they see a new device on one of the sites within their network.  This ID is determined by device IDs, which are unique to every phone, tablet, and desktop.  These partners also track the various connection points each device logs into, so they are able to tell if a device stays in your home, is at your office, or is a device you take out with you during your daily activity. 

By keeping track of each internet connection point and browsing history on each device, these data collection companies are able to determine, with extremely high accuracy, devices that are owned by a user.  This is described as a level of confidence; as in “what level of confidence can we have that we are actually engaging with this one user across each of their devices?”  These days, the most trusted in the space are at 90% or higher!  This is much more confidence than 10 years ago when advertising was based on securing media with publishers that reportedly captured your audience!  The days of crafting a media campaign around publications you feel your audience consumes are fast coming to a close.  We now have the opportunity to create campaigns that are truly based on audiences and test various audience behaviors and intent for performance, rather than various publications. 

Just Media is in a unique position that not all agencies are so lucky to be in.  With our variety of clientele and partnerships, we have access to several beta programs and preferred partner rates that we can take advantage of to ensure our clients have the most targeted, meaningful, efficient, and impactful campaigns to provide the best chance of success for our clients.

Contributed by Brian Kelleher

Connect with Team Just if you’d like to learn more about the future of tracking. Our team would love to geek out with you.


Posted on March 13, 2019 in The Austin Media Team

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