The cookie is about to crumble as a result of growing data privacy regulations, and its demise through 2021 remains a core challenge for nearly half the advertising industry (49%), research finds.

Integral Ad Science (IAS) Industry Pulse Report 2021 reveals that along with adapting to a cookie-less digital world, transparency, lack of metrics and data privacy are the top concerns for marketers next year. In contrast, last year’s industry focus was on legislation; now media experts are concerned primarily with the effects of these new rules on accurate measurement.

Google has announced it will stop supporting third-party cookies on its dominant Chrome browser by the end of 2021. Its challenger, Mozilla’s Firefox, has launched tracking protection. 

Meanwhile, Apple has said that from next year its operating software will require apps to ask for permission from users to collect advertising information, specifically the advertising identifier, a number used by targeted ads and to assess campaigns’ performances. The iPhone maker’s move has attracted a lawsuit in France, alleging anti-competitive behaviour.

There is concern about the power these changes will place in the hands of the likes of Google, which is both a major actor in, and will be a major beneficiary of, the end of third-party cookies. 

This week the search giant was criticised in a piece in Harvard's Nieman Lab for blocking some ads on the basis they apparently take up too much computing power on a person’s device – without explaining to publishers why this was happening.

Just last week, the UK government set up a digital marketing taskforce in response to the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) year-long study into tech giants’ dominance of digital advertising.

IAS surveyed 200-plus digital advertising professionals representing brands, agencies, publishers, and ad tech vendors to compile their latest report. 

Commenting on the survey, Nick Morley, Managing Director, EMEA, IAS, said: “Looking to 2021, as the UK maps out its future from Brexit, the industry will be focused on regaining strength.

“Transparency and brand risk continues to remain a focus in social media and programmatic. This need will be particularly prevalent in Europe, where GDPR, privacy concerns and the phase-out from third-party cookies continue to limit the data available for audience targeting,” he added.

Other key findings from the research include: 

  • 88% of those surveyed expect the shift in ad spend from linear TV to digital video/connected TV will accelerate next year. 
  • Only 17% believe social platforms offer adequate transparency.
  • 59% said they plan to adjust social media spend because of inadequate metrics.
  • 66% believe AI and machine learning will make mobile ads contextual next year.

Sourced from Integral Ad Science, Wall Street Journal, Nieman Lab