Let’s review a scenario that is very familiar to users of the internet in 2021. You’re sitting on the sofa for what seems to be the 27th month in a row, watching a marathon of your favorite sitcom on basic cable, mindlessly dual-tasking wandering around the worldwide web on your mobile device. Maybe it’s the episode where all the characters go to Hawaii. You allow yourself to daydream a bit, maybe even check the weather in Maui.

Then it strikes, the targeted ad.

All of a sudden, the fine folks at United Airlines are informing you that for $500 round trip you could be sitting on the beach sipping a pina colada within the week, escaping the monotony of your day-to-day life. Did they read your mind? Is your phone spying on you? Listening in on conversations between you and your significant other?

No (at least to most of that). The truth is far less sinister and less interesting. A tracking cookie inferred that because you were checking the weather in some tropical paradise, you might also be interested in traveling there. Thus, you were served an ad.


A brief history of non-edible cookies


The tracking cookie is over 25 years old, and was actually created out of convenience. Store little pieces of information, like that you have previously visited a certain website. Of course, it wasn’t long before marketers realized that big money could be made by selling the web behavior of a person to an interested party. Cookies have been at the forefront of privacy controversies ever since. This week’s announcement that Google is finally phasing out cookies should be the final death rattle for what has been a long demise for the snackable treats.

In recent years, certain browsers such as Safari and Firefox decided to disallow cookies, citing privacy concerns for their users. Google Chrome, however, and its 60% market share were still allowing cookies to track user movement across the web. Perhaps because their own goliath money-maker AdWords was essentially built on the back of tracking technology. That all changed on March 3rd, when Google made its plans clear to phase out the use of cookies.

Does this mean that targeted ads are dead? That you will never make another questionable impulse buy on Instagram ever again? No, it does not. (And the author of this post loves his Ocean Galaxy Light by the way.) Google is moving to a less targeted program they are calling a ‘privacy sandbox’ that will target groups instead of individuals. This is a major change a year after Google accounted for 52% of global digital ad spending of $292 billion.

So, Google is done with third party cookies, AND will not develop a similar alternative…where does that leave marketers who want to target at the individual level?


What channels stand to gain in a post-cookie world?


Obviously, this move opens the door for other types of approaches; think contextual advertising instead of tracking-based ads. But the real winner likely can be found in other digital channels, specifically A2P channels such as SMS.

SMS marketing is a great alternative to a tracking-based approach because it puts your content directly in front of your target audience. It isn’t trying to trick you, it didn’t stalk you around the internet to learn your lifestyle and interests. An SMS goes specifically to a user that has opted-in, a user that wants your content…and with a 98% open rate, it’s far superior to just another banner ad. It’s a channel real people use every day to communicate with friends, family, and – at an increasing frequency — savvy businesses.

Think about the previous example with your favorite airline. Sure, you get a million e-mails from them every week, but those go straight to spam or are deleted immediately. However, if you received an SMS from the airline that flights were 40% off for the next week, you would most likely…

  1. Feel much less violated. (This is not an invasion of privacy; you’ve booked with them before, they know you like to travel)
  2. Click the link and start browsing flights immediately

68% of marketers who use SMS to advertise products or increase brand awareness report revenue growth in the last fiscal year. Don’t hide your ads in plain sight on a website, if you want to sell us something? Text us.