Death Of The Pixel

 Posted by John McColman on December 21, 2020,  
DeathOfThePixel

Death of the Pixel

Long the Golden Goose for advertisers, the pixel has recently become the cookie monster under the bed.

For marketers, the third-party tracking completely changed the game online.

It gave us the power to track the ROI of advertising budgets, refine our campaigns, and show our clients exactly how online advertising made them money. And that was something traditional advertisers could never do.

In short, cookies and pixels took online marketing to the next level.

So, why are we celebrating the death of the pixel?

Because these days, third-party tracking is increasingly viewed with suspicion. 

With bad actors taking advantage of cookies, and major world governments creating laws around it, third-party tracking is quickly becoming the boogeyman of the internet.

This is why Google recently announced that Chrome will stop supporting third-party tracking by 2022.

As Google leaves the pixel behind, a consortium of advertisers and advertising organizations are moving on to create a new way forward: Unified ID 2.0.

What is third-party tracking?

Third-party tracking means an organization other than the website owner tracks the movements of a user.

This is done in two ways:

  • A cookie: a piece of code downloaded by the user’s browser that gathers information about the user.
  • A pixel: a piece of code existing on the website that gathers information about the user.

Essentially, they both accomplish the same task in different ways.

Website owners also use cookies to optimize usability, but they’re not a third-party so it’s untouched by this update.

What will be changing is third-party trackers (like yours truly), and any other advertiser out there, will not be able to track users with cookies or pixels in a few, short years.

Without another solution, i.e.: Unified ID 2.0, this would leave advertisers blind again, unable to target relevant ads to consumers, or tell if their clients’ campaigns are working as well they should be.

The ‘Wild West’ of Internet Tracking

Rewind to the beginning and it’s easy to see why there are so many concerns with pixels, cookies, and internet-tracking in general. It’s a chaotic mess of different codes, companies and methods.

 

It started when someone discovered lines of code could be placed within pictures that allowed websites to follow traffic, and then everything grew ad hoc from there. Different solutions were implemented to monetize various sites and other advertisers diverged – with even the best strategies carried out in a rather chaotic manner.

In short, it was the wild, wild west of the internet, where everyone did as they pleased with their pixels.

Today, the internet isn’t quite so cobbled together – but tracking still is. The result is sketchy companies, like Cambridge Analytica, have been able to push the boundaries of what is possible and what is morally acceptable within the confines of the online world.

This has made users and governments look at the mess and try to create some sort of order.

 

The Pixel Has Fallen; The Cookies Are Scattered

When the European Union started creating laws requiring websites to disclose their tracking, it was the beginning of the end for the pixel. 

The new laws:

  • Came with annoying pop ups

and

  • Made people wary of internet tracking

Today, for example, Mozilla Firefox defaults to blocking third party cookies trying to track you. But, arguably more important, Google has just announced that Chrome, which has a 60% share of the browser market, will disallow third-party tracking as of 2022.

That gives advertisers just two years to find a method that’s seamless and secure.

Unified ID 2.0 – a better way to internet

Unified ID 2.0 is a new solution to the confusing nature of the pixel/cookie world. Created and backed by a variety of huge internet advertising companies and organizations, like Nielsen of Nielsen Ratings fame, Unified 2.o makes tracking and advertising not only simpler, but more transparent for users across the board.

Instead of operating in the code users don’t see, Unified 2.0 relies on users to opt-in through a secured sign-in page, much like logging into Chrome. 

The first time they sign-in, they will be prompted to create an account with their email as a username. In that account, they will be able to control their settings, which will work across the internet

This makes life all-around better for both users and advertisers.

For advertisers

The thrown-together nature of cookies has worked fine for advertisers as we try to find out how users are interacting with our ads. However, because it’s hodge-podge, problems have been glaring from the get-go – one of the main ones being how cookies can’t track users across different platforms.

However, Unified 2.0 is built to allow advertisers to track cross-platform, solving one of the biggest issues for cookies. Because users sign in on all their platforms, Unified 2.0 will know if they see an ad on their computer, then search for the brand on their mobile device. This helps us to better track users so we can see how effective our ads are, and it also helps us better target consumers.

It’s also a much simpler system than the ever changing multitude of protocols we currently use. Because it is open source and interoperable, it will work across browsers and sites, making it a perfect one-stop solution.

For consumers

While Unified ID 2.0 looks great for advertisers, it’s even better for consumers. 

Just like everything with cookies, security was something of an afterthought. But, with Unified ID 2.0, security is baked in from the very beginning. To protect privacy, all login emails will be hashed and encrypted, with regular rotation of decryption keys to help maintain privacy. A code of conduct, governed by an independent body, will also ensure Unified ID 2.0 will remain open and respect its users’ privacy in an ongoing manner. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it will help speed up the user’s internet experience. Today, when a user lands on a website, anywhere from one to 100 trackers all start sending information. This not only takes up  bandwidth, slowing down a user’s experience, but it also eats up their data.

Google Analytics 4 – Google Beyond The Cookie

As Google moves away from third party cookies and toward a new future in online advertising, it will make it easier than ever for business owners to track how consumers are interacting with their website.

And, with updates to Google Analytics (the most powerful free tool available), new, machine-learning software will improve its ability to spot and report on trends – even alerting marketers and business owners on high ROI advertising opportunities.

Combining this powerful tool with Google Ads and new movements in tracking software, like Unified ID 2.0, will give online business owners better options to find the right audience for their products and services.

 

How Can IFM Help Prepare You For The Future?

As big pieces of the puzzle start to change, it’s important to stay on top of how your website is performing. Increasingly, tracking is moving from ‘really nice’ to ‘absolutely critical’ for online businesses.

These days, you don’t need to be an expert to track how effective your site and your online advertising is. But, if you do need help, give us a call and we can walk you through how you can take advantage of the tools and data in front of you to make your advertising more effective.