As new technologies and innovations are introduced frequently each year, the digital advertising industry has become accustomed to unexpected change. Of course, the frequent change will bring inevitable challenges, and 2020 will be no exception. Data regulation, privacy and transparency issues remain unresolved, all leading to what may be the “death of the cookie.” 

Online advertising that isn’t reliant on 3rd party cookies is not a new conversation, but a cookie-less future is becoming more of a reality in recent months. With Google and Apple clenching controls over third-party cookie usage on Chrome and Safari browsers earlier this year, the uncertain future of ad targeting and revenue is worrisome. 

While the digital industry continues to evolve, it’s important to embrace change and stay informed. Here are four dead-simple tips for surviving a cookie-less future.  

1. Focus on 1st Party Data 

When it comes to collecting and monetizing 1st party data, ensure your methods are GDPR and CCPA compliant. Smaller publishers can start by using their own website analytics and insights to understand their audiences. They can then A/B test new audiences and offer them as part of ad targeting within Google Ad Manager, Facebook ads or other ad platforms.  

Larger publishers are investing in new DMP solutions, or building their own DMP, to meet the new industry requirements. In the past, publishers partnered with DMPs to take advantage of their 3rd party data for ad targeting. Given the changing requirements, publishers now need DMPs with a different set of tools previously used to help them leverage their own 1st party data.  

2. Invest in Your People  

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay well-informed and up to date with the latest and greatest in digital advertising, even for those that attempt to daily. When it comes to topics like data and programmatic advertising, hiring subject matter experts is crucial, along with investing in proper training for current employees.  

Once you have highly skilled people in place, discourage working in silos and encouraging cross-training between roles and departments. Digital knowledge should run deep throughout the entire business if you’re a digital publisher, from sales to finance. This may mean a more technical staff in general, but being curious, adaptable and innovative are the most valuable qualities to seek out.  

3. Revisit Programmatic & Partner Strategies 

As eMarketer reported, around 80% of all US digital display advertising in 2018 was transacted programmatically and despite the state of the industry, that number isn’t expected to decline. While the future of programmatic is uncertain, it is not “dead” as some have claimed – it’s evolving.  

With programmatic guaranteed campaigns, publishers sell the same premium inventory at the same price as their traditional direct campaigns. PG is not reliant on cookies and 1st party data can be applied, solving for the industry’s latest issues.  In fact, Financial Times’ PG deals account for 70% of their programmatic ad revenue, up from 4% just two years ago. 

Additionally, publishers, advertisers and ad tech companies are establishing deeper trust through fewer, but closer, partnerships. The industry is realizing the value in a smaller number of quality relationships rather than focusing on quantity. Ad partners and vendors must provide an excellent product and customer service consistently. 

4. Prioritize Creativity & Interpersonal Skills   

To thrive in a cookie-less future, going “back-to-basics” may be key. Long before the internet existed, advertising was intended to be persuasive. Early ad agencies harnessed the power of people skills.  They lacked technology skills, yet they still had the same end-goal of today’s ad industry – to sell. 

When psychologists and researchers got involved in advertising in the 1950’s and 1960’s, they introduced a more intelligent way of persuading the masses with ads, and they did it without cookies or the internet. Strategies were formed the “old fashioned way” through various research studies and communication.  

Start by delivering timely and relevant advertisements to users without relying on cookies using simple factors like the weather. Show ads for new snow tires before a big storm, for example. The skills often downplayed in today’s data-driven world, including intuition, awareness and excellent customer service, never go out of style.