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Advertising’s Galileo Moment: Overcoming Resistance to Embrace a Cookieless Future

  • - Scott Howe
  • 3 min read

We are at a historic crossroads for the advertising ecosystem. All of the industry leaders I’ve spoken to recently understand this, but there’s still more that we need to convince. We are on the verge of rebuilding the digital advertising ecosystem from one built around the third-party cookie to one that puts consumer privacy and transparency at the forefront.

What we do now will affect not just the future of our industry, but define the next decade of the internet. And collectively, we must appreciate the gravity of the task facing us, and show up accordingly.

Historic parallels are everywhere

The course of human history has been defined by a journey toward enlightenment. Things that we now take for granted today – from evolution to the fact that the Earth revolves around the sun – were each the result of enlightenment fighting its way from fringe belief to become a core truth.

Believe it or not, for each of these core truths, some people were fighting against things that we now realize are so obvious. Look no further than Galileo: his fight to convince people that the Earth revolved around the sun embroiled much of his later life, but we now recognize his brilliance and celebrate his triumphs.

In some countries, privacy is viewed as a human right, and in most countries, transparency and choice are fundamental consumer expectations. As part of this, I believe that it’s a fallacy to think our ecosystem needs something as outdated as third-party cookies in order to function. In a few years, we’ll look back on third-party cookies and wonder why we ever let them stick around so long, especially after consumers started to want something better.

Change is necessary and already underway

While some parts of the ecosystem may disagree, I firmly believe that we are all ready to shift away from third-party cookies now. It’s worth noting that the cookieless future is already here, as are its benefits. 50% of the internet is already cookieless, with 1% of Chrome users being added to this.

Objectors argue they’ll lose too much performance when third-party cookies are deprecated. Here’s the thing: privacy and results already coexist. We’ve shared numerous case studies highlighting this, and recently shared the results of our work with Omni Hotels & Resorts, where they improved their advertising effectiveness 4x using cookieless solutions. This is in addition to our case studies which show cookieless solutions, and respecting consumer privacy, improve publisher monetization as well. Better results for advertisers, publishers, and consumers – that’s the very definition of a win/win/win, where we can all do our jobs better while helping consumers.

I get it. Change is hard, and it’s easier not to change, and continue relying on third-party cookies, than to rebuild.

But there’s no debate: change is good. Change drives innovation, and innovation is what pushes us all forward toward these core truths. We simply must have the courage to change. When the third-party cookie is deprecated, and when respect for privacy prevails, history will look on us as innovators, and as an industry that did the right thing.

It took us well more than a hundred years to accept the truth that the Earth orbited the sun. At the time, society even ostracized Galileo, who had incontrovertible, scientific proof to support this. While we’re not risking house arrest like Galileo was subject to, we certainly can’t take a hundred years to embrace the future.

We must all acknowledge that there is still work to do this year as we prepare for the end of the cookie, but now is the time to do that work and not push for further delays. At LiveRamp, we’ve leaned into the change and our brands and publishers are getting better results. Every member of the advertising industry also should lean into this change – let’s embrace the end of the cookie and work to build a better ecosystem, not push for further delays.

Together, we can make an entire industry better. And why wait for progress? We’re ready to make history – not next year, or the year after – but now. Join me.


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