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The end of third-party cookies is here. Should you consider server-side tracking as an alternative?

As we are approaching the irreversible end of third-party cookies, marketers should consider the alternatives to third-party based advertising. Faithful followers know we are big fans of server-side tracking. We developed a tool to help you decide if server-side tracking is a valid alternative for your company. Is your company ready to track server-side? Take the test.

Should you start a server-side tracking business case? Take the test!

Third-party cookies will soon be a thing of the past. There are a few alternatives you can consider, one of them being server-side tracking.

But how do you know if it’s worth the time and investment?

We’ve developed a tool that enables you to decide if writing a server-side tracking business case is something you should consider. This will help you to prepare for the digital ad world of tomorrow.

A brief history of third-party cookies

Third-party cookies have been used by advertisers for several decades. It turned Alphabet into one of the world’s biggest ad space sellers, and created a multi-billion dollar industry. A significant part of that market relies on third-party cookie technology. Today, we are reaching the end of the third-party cookie era.

Why? Third-party cookie tracking has been widely criticized by internet users, privacy activists and legislators. With the shift in public opinion, the popularity of cookie-munching ad blockers skyrocketed.

How to keep targeting your audience? These are your options

So what’s next? Companies have mainly three options to anticipate the end of third-party cookies.

Option 1: wait and see

As the advertising industry is trying to consolidate their financial interest, they are developing other tactics to target ads: Google’s Privacy Sandbox, walled gardens, contextual advertising

These could replace the convenience third-party cookies offer to target ads. However, many of them are still a work in progress. If you are confident about the ad industry developing alternatives, then you don’t have to worry about losing the ability to execute data driven campaigns in the future.

Option 2: log-in first and identity-based tracking

Among others, the American AdTech company The Trade Desk launched an open-source initiative (Unified ID 2.0) that allows publishers to create an advertising ID based on a specific (and unique) trait like an e-mail address. Every time users log into a website with the linked e-mail address, the advertising ID will track their behaviour and serve targeted ads.

The Trade Desk is looking for publishers to join forces. The more advertisers, AdTech companies and publishers are using Unified ID 2.0, the better the ability to track users across the web. But some publishers and critics worry that identity-based tracking is not a game changer when it comes to respecting users’ privacy.

New identity management concepts like self-sovereign identity could also reshape the online advertising world. The Brave browser, for instance, uses self-sovereign identity to give users more control over their data and even offers the possibility to capitalize on it. Yes, Brave users could get paid to watch or interact with online ads. Although it’s an exciting innovation, it will take some time before the advertising industry fully embraces this idea.

Option 3: make it first-party with server-side tracking

When an advertiser and a publisher each collect their own data about their audience, they can match that data and use it to target ads. This would mean that user data is no longer collected on the client side (as the third-party cookie will no longer exist) but tracked server-side.

Tracking user behaviour server-side doesn’t mean that privacy regulations don’t apply. You would still need to request clear and specific consent from your website’s visitor before activating a server-side tracking mechanism. Big advertising platforms like Google and Facebook have expressed their support for server-side tracking as an alternative. Besides the ability to continue serving target ads to your audience, server-side tracking also allows you to collect more accurate data from your website.

How to start? The first step is to write a business case in which potential value, risks, benefits, solutions, costs, and revenue are assessed. This will allow you to make an informed decision.

Need to freshen up your server-side tracking knowledge? Watch our Tricks of the Trade episode and you’ll be up-to-date in no time!

So… which option is the best?

Option 1 and 2 are works in progress. Without a doubt, plenty of new initiatives will be released in the coming months and years. However, betting the house on forthcoming and uncertain innovations seems a little risky.

The third option – server-side trackingcan be implemented today. The downside? It requires some effort and investments. So, how do you know if your company is ready to take the leap?

Which option to consider depends on your marketing strategy, ambitions and current dependency on third-party cookies. Use our tool to find out if server-side tracking should be on your consideration list.