Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) Explained

Following the recent announcement of Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) on certain browsers, Media Experts breaks down what you need to know (and how this may affect your online advertising capabilities).



A little about cookies (mmm… cookies)


When someone is browsing the Internet, whether it’s on Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Internet Explorer, their browser collects and stores cookies from web sites they’ve visited. Cookies tell a story of a person’s online journey: sites they’ve visited, actions they’ve taken, purchases they’ve made, user names they’ve used, etc. It represents someone’s online footprint. From a marketing perspective, cookies allow advertisers to track campaign performance and offer users a more customized advertising experience the next time they’re online.


There are two types of cookies: first and third-party.



1. A first-party cookie is used to track and leverage information within the user’s initial environment or domain (information is collected on yoursite.com and is used to measure or customize the experience on yoursite.com). Think conversion tracking, for example. Or maybe user information is being collected to personalize the website experience the next time someone visits the site. The bottom line, since the information is not being used externally, it’s a first-party cookie.



2. A third-party cookie comes into play when information is collected for use outside of the visitor’s initial environment. For instance, collecting site data from “Yoursite.com” and using the information to personalize advertising on an external domain (like theglobeandmail.com, Facebook, or even Google). The most obvious example of this is remarketing (those creepy ads that follow you around), but third-party cookies are also used for view-through conversion tracking. This is when a user sees an ad, does not click it, converts on an advertiser’s web site, and marketers can still confirm that the conversion took place.


So, what’s all this about ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention)?


There have been several iterations of ITP over the past several months and we are currently at iteration 2.2. The long and the short of it is that Safari and Firefox are killing off third-party cookies entirely with their new browser updates. That means everything aforementioned about third-party cookies is slowly disappearing. This is a significant development as, according to Statista, 35% of the Canadian population uses either Safari or Firefox. Safari is taking things one step further by decreasing the expiration date of first-party cookies to 24 hours. This means that, after 24 hours, you’ll appear as a new user to a site you visited earlier in the week.

How does this affect brands? Digital marketers work with lookback windows typically set to 7 – 30 days, allowing us to track a user for the predefined amount of days after they engaged with our ad to determine if they convert on the web site. Since Safari browsers will be clearing first-party cookies after 24 hours, our new maximum lookback window will be reduced to just one day on that browser.

While this only majorly impacts Safari at the moment, there is speculation that Google will eventually follow their lead with Chrome. Google is already offering users easier ways to view and delete their cookies – the hope is that they find new ways to track users and offer customized advertising solutions.