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The beginning of the beginning of the end for performance marketing?

Updated: May 21, 2020

Off-Facebook activity controls impact performance marketing

Maybe it’s too soon to say. And will never be that absolute in reality. But there were significant announcements recently from two of the big beasts of digital which changed the rules of engagement to a degree that could undermining the foundations of AdTech.


It’s quite hard to find in the settings, and it's meaning isn't intuitively obvious, but 'off-Facebook activity' is a big deal.

What is off-Facebook activity

In what is clearly an attempt to clean up their act post-Cambridge Analytica, Facebook are rolling out a set of privacy tools that put us back in control of this information (now available in the UK). With potentially seismic implications for performance marketing, you can now block companies importing your browsing history from elsewhere into Facebook for use in ad targeting.

And if you download this data (something you can do with everything Facebook holds on you - it's very instructive) you'll realise just how scary the whole thing is. I think I’m pretty careful with the information I share online, and try to turn off cookies at every opportunity. But there were still nearly 550 apps and websites pumping info about me into Facebook.

Off-Facebook activity

Fortunately, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg (not words you hear that often), as well as stopping companies porting more data into Facebook you can now scrub what's already there.

Couple that with the fact that Facebook already let you turn off targeted ads within the platform (if people know where to look), and consider what that means for the 'effectiveness' promises of performance evangelists.

Facebook ad settings


But Facebook putting you in control of your browsing history is only one side of the story. In parallel, Google have also announced they will be stopping support for third-party cookies by 2022.

In theory, all the major browsers include the facility to turn these off already. Whether people realise this and act on it is another matter.

Google to phase out third-party cookie support

But Google's decision has potentially bigger implications for AdTech as it systemises a rejection of behaviour tracking in Chrome, the world’s no.1 browser (66% share). Or to look at it another way, the browsing data Facebook now lets you block may no longer exist in the first place.

The drop in Criteo’s share price (and others) that followed shows what this could mean for the performance marketing industry.

Criteo’s share price

So is this rug pull from under (third-party) AdTech the beginning of the end of being stalked round the internet? This will obviously depend on what Facebook and Google (really) do next. Because both clearly have skin in the advertising game, and may simply be looking for a way to control an even bigger slice.

But if they do side with people over businesses who knows: the tyranny of automation over consideration, tactics over strategy, efficiency over effectiveness, and computers over creativity, could be coming to an end.

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