Skip to Main Content
Heart. Mind. Gut.

Back To News

How Privacy Restrictions Are Changing Digital Marketing

The Cookie Monster Just Ate Our Third-Party Data. What Now?

Digital Marketing, ever-changing and fast-paced, has marketers racing to pivot in adapting to new data privacy restrictions and regulations across websites, social platforms, and apps. User privacy has been a concern for some time, but the focus on protecting users and their information has accelerated significantly in the past year. Big changes are happening and there is more on the horizon. Here’s a high-level summary of some of the recent changes in privacy restrictions, how they are affecting marketing efforts, and how Mission’s Digital Marketing team is pivoting to lead effective campaigns despite these changes. 

Not Your Grandmother’s Homemade Cookies

To decipher upcoming changes and how they affect users, we first need to understand the difference between types of website cookies. Cookies are pieces of data from a website that are stored on a web browser. First-party cookies allow websites to analyze and collect information that varies from user to user. For example, these could be used to store your website login username and password to improve user experience. Third-party cookies allow advertisers to track user activity across websites and collect data to target ads to users' specific browsing history, preferences, interests, and more. 

The more permanently plugged in we have become as a society and the more saturated digital advertising has become, the more users have grown wary of their privacy and what advertisers are able to use to target them. Platforms and websites have taken notice and are making adjustments. Google announced recently that it plans on removing all third-party cookies by 2023, which will impact marketers worldwide in how they target ads to users. Over the last year, Facebook has removed what it deems to be “redundant and sensitive” targeting options, including causes, health, religion, race, political views, and sexual orientation. With interest targeting significantly more limited,  Facebook is encouraging marketers to rely on its own delivery system to find the best users for broader targeting. 

The “Age” of Restrictions

While Google has never allowed age-based targeting of users under 18, there has always been an “unknown” age option that would capture users under the age of 18 without identifying them as such. On Facebook, the under-18 restriction is a bit more complex. As of Summer 2021, you can no longer target users under 18 if additional interests are applied. 

The Power “In Hand”

Phone manufacturers are leading the data crackdown too. Apple is perhaps the most prominent, leveraging entire ad campaigns of its own to promote data privacy and security, and slowly edging toward further restrictions on cookies and IDs used to track ad views and purchases in apps and websites used on mobile phones. While the marketing world was pleasantly surprised recently when Apple did not roll out its most aggressive data privacy and anti-tracking measures with the launch of iOS 16 as expected, the company is definitely still expected to do so shortly. Apple has already launched pilots of some new measures. 

Private Relay, launched in 2021, is a program that iCloud subscribers can use to block their IP address when browsing websites using Safari, thus disrupting “fingerprinting”, the ability for advertisers to indirectly identify devices when more specific user data isn’t available.  The App Tracking Transparency framework, also launched recently, hides the Identifier for Advertisers used to personalize ads and services unless the consumer opts-in. These trends make it increasingly more difficult to get information on audiences without direct permission, putting the power in the user’s hand when it comes to data sharing.

There is Hope

None of this means digital marketing will ultimately be less effective, but strategies will need to pivot toward other tactics like building robust first-party data like customer email lists, gated content, sign-ups or contests, subscription or membership models, and exploring marketing automation tools like Salesforce, Hubspot, Pardot, and Sharpspring to leverage this data more directly. Consumer data lists can be used to create lookalike audiences, essentially targeting users who act similarly to known audiences or existing customers. Of course, data must be captured in compliance with GDPR/CCPA mandates (General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act), adding another layer to the challenge. 

Another tactic to consider is contextual targeting. Platforms like YouTube and programmatic campaigns provide targeting options to appeal to users based on the type of content they are consuming, instead of who they are as people, which eliminates the need for some demographic targeting. For example, a shoe ad could appear to someone looking at an article about fashion instead of targeting users who classify as “fashion lovers” or people who like shopping on websites. 

While age-based targeting restrictions exist, there are still platforms that accommodate this well. TikTok is wildly popular and growing rapidly among users 13-19 years old. The platform currently still allows age targeting of users 13-17 years old, but does not identify the size of this group specifically. Along with younger reach, you can target using lists, psychographic interests, and the ability to tag users based on what video content they are watching and interacting with. As TikTok has allowed advertising in the last two years, it has emerged as a leading platform for reaching younger consumers. 

Stay Awake

The evolution won’t stop here, so it is crucial for marketers to stay current, remain informed of ongoing changes in the digital landscape, and be increasingly innovative with strategies, wholistic approaches, and testing out different platforms to reach intended users. Mission’s Digital Marketing team is working diligently to stay at the forefront of the ongoing digital evolution and help our clients remain relevant and engaged with their audiences.