One Simple Step That Would Kill The 3rd Party Cookie

To successfully migrate to the healthier – and yet more profitable –  cookieless world, we don’t need FLOCTopics, or any other surrogate 3P identity solution. We don’t need endless proprietary clean rooms or server-side silliness. And we definitely don’t need dystopian TV campaigns celebrating covert ad platform identity tracking.

What we need are platforms to support simple, effective tools that allow advertisers to effectively allocate marketing investments using their 1P data.

Google has one of these tools – their Offline Conversions API. Combined with Google’s Smart Bidding, this tech could lead the way towards a truly remarkable experience for marketers, users and even publishers. Substantial roadblocks remain. They should be removed. Let me explain:

Today, when advertisers send 1P-data signals about the value of specific marketing touchpoints from Google using the Offline Conversions API, those signals are almost always adjusted – explicitly or implicitly – by Google to reflect their own in-platform attribution modeling, Data-Driven Attribution

This happens one of two ways:

  1. Google performance incentives essentially prohibit any large advertiser from opting out of 3P attribution modeling (DDA)
  2. Smaller advertiser accounts end up being automatically opted into using DDA anyway.

Google’s ‘Data-Driven Attribution’ is constrained by 3P data limitations – namely, it can only see its own marketing touchpoints, and is blind to impact outside of their advertising footprint.

The result is that a marketer using 1P data to determine true incremental impact, who then connects that incremental impact directly to Google advertising accounts through the Offline Conversions API, can and does get that great data overwritten by flawed 3P modeling built on a 3P identity set, not their customer’s full purchase journey. This locks marketers into 3P limitations, without them even knowing it.


The fix here is so maddeningly simple — platforms should let advertisers send 1P performance data, and then leave it alone.

So why don’t we see this?

Two reasons:

  1. Smart people deciding the risk isn’t worth it. The truth about Data-Driven Attribution is that it’s a necessary evil that once drove reasonable incremental performance improvements across a broad range of advertisers. Historically, advertisers have had terrible data from which to attribute impact (3P conversion tracking, with last-touch / time-windows). On top of that, almost all attribution data outside of 3P conversion tracking cookies also uses a ‘last-click’ attribution methodology. Since most ‘last-clicks’ are navigational, this drove more and more business value to be attributed to navigational actions (i.e. ‘brand’ clicks on Google), and marketers who tried to invest more in these clicks found results waning. Google’s auctions and profits suffered as well. What Google did by developing and rolling out DDA solved a business problem at scale, but along the way it created a new one. There’s going to be little appetite at Google to slow their forced DDA migration on everyone, even if it flies in the face of 1P data and a ‘cookieless’ future.
  2. Technologists who don’t fully understand the ecosystem they’ve created. The ‘fix-a-flawed-dataset-with-a-flawed-model’ concept is so ingrained into the culture across digital marketing & ad technology, that things like Offline Conversions API still chiefly function as ‘last-click’ measurement vehicles. Even the name – “Offline Conversions API” – belies a misunderstanding of the real potential unlocked by the very technologists that created it. This essentially is a direct-line for any advertiser to speak to Google’s own auction-time bidding and buying algorithms. This is a powerful capability, far beyond anything ‘Conversion Tracking’ could have ever accomplished. The same tech – led with a different mindset – could truly revolutionize the industry.

The arguments against my point of view? Here’s the ones I know of:

1. Hardly anyone uses Offline Conversions API, and it’s not simple. Sure, that’s true today, but only because the industry has built up the notion that Offline Conversions API is the purview of the most sophisticated advertisers and technologists. This is not the case. I could explain how Offline Conversions API works to a plumber. In fact, we’ve made an entire company out of training people who aren’t software programmers how to use tools like this.  Everyone could be doing it.

2. Well not everyone is working with Bonsai, Matt. This is also true, but we aren’t alone either. There are others out there pushing the boundaries, and ad platforms should be facilitating their biggest partners to find services that can connect these dots and generate powerful 1P data signals that can effectively buy through the most sophisticated bid automations.

Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other platforms should rush to support every advertiser looking to hook up 1P value signals directly into their marketing platforms and bidding tools. They should embrace the data they are sent, as it’s the clearest path to a better internet – a path that improves business outcomes, improves customer experiences, is more secure, burns less energy, and loads much faster!

The problem is, platforms don’t seem to realize – or aren’t serious about – the opportunity they have on their hands to lead and lean into this approach. Can we get tech giants to re-imagine the tools available that empower a 1P data-driven world? Let’s hope we can play a small part.

About the Author

Matt Butler
Ex-Googler of 12 years, Matt was a founding member of Google’s analytical consulting team, developing analytics, statistical forecasting, auction modeling, and machine learning for companies such as Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Kohl’s, Best Buy, and many more. He went on to lead global technical partnerships before leaving to found Bonsai in February, 2020.