What the Death of Cookies and App Tracking Means for Marketers

On January 19, the Calgary Marketing Association will host its first webinar of 2021! In the lead up to Is Behavioural Targeting Dead?, we had the opportunity to chat with Heather Ilsley, the Vice President of Client Services at Vovia and Genevieve Crebbin, the Senior Digital Specialist at Vovia.

Here’s what we asked, and, here’s what they answered…


CMA: As a digital marketer, did you foresee the death of cookies and app tracking – and if so, how long ago and did you really believe this would happen?


Heather: I think once the EU focused on privacy and giving their citizens more control over their data was the impetus for much of the industry. When Apple’s Safari browser started blocking cookies in 2017, that was the first indication that a large tech company was prioritizing user privacy. When Firefox followed suit in 2019, it was only a matter of time before Google came into line with the rest of the industry and forced third party platforms or data providers to find an alternate solution to cookies.

Genevieve: I knew changes were coming when Safari first blocked third party cookies back in 2017, but I didn’t foresee this big of a shift in the industry to unfold just a few short years later.


CMA: As a consumer, what’s the biggest change you have noticed in digital marketing in the past 6 months / 12 months?


Heather: Covid has drastically accelerated the adoption of e-commerce by retailers thus we’ve seen a huge increase in marketing designed to get users to purchase online.

Genevieve: Short form video has seen a really big lift in the past 6-12 months. Not too long ago, YouTube was considered the platform for shorter form video but these days an 8-10 minute long YouTube video feels like a pretty big commitment compared to the content available on TikTok or Instagram. I’m definitely finding myself scrolling away on TikTok for an hour or clicking through Instagram Stories but can’t even make it through an entire YouTube vlog anymore.


CMA: Heather, can you expand on why you won’t have a smart speaker in your home any time soon? And do you think you ever will?


Heather: It’s pretty simple. I value my privacy. Smart speakers are designed to always be listening for their “wake” word. That means that they are ALWAYS listening. This has been corroborated with reports from employees from Amazon and Google that they were able to listen in on private conversations. Knowing this, I don’t trust that tech companies are handling and storing this data properly. At home, I also often have my mobile phone in another room as I don’t think it needs to be next to me at all times and I don’t trust that it’s not listening as well. The increased convenience isn’t worth the privacy tradeoff to me but I recognize that I am much more privacy focused than the average consumer.


CMA: Genevieve, as someone who is excited to see how the industry adapts to the impact of increased regulations on privacy, what’s the biggest WOW! you have had around this in the last couple of years?


Genevieve: The level of data we’ve had readily available for targeting in most platforms over the last few years has made reaching smaller targeted groups relatively ‘easy’. Want to reach someone between the ages of 18-24 years old who you’ve deemed interested in your brand because they’re in the 90th percentile for time spent on your site but have not yet purchased anything? No problem. With the upcoming changes however, it’s no longer going to be that simple so we’re having to come up with new and innovative ways to efficiently target these smaller audience groups. But that’s what makes the work fun!


CMA: Any suggestions on current go-to Podcast, book or playlist?


Heather: Not a podcast, but I’ve recently signed up for MasterClass and am loving the content. I just finished a course on sleep and I’m going to listen to Chris Hadfield’s class on space exploration next.

Genevieve: My most recent podcast binge has been Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast. My favourite episode so far is the one on burnout and completing the stress cycle. Definitely worth a listen!



To register or learn more information about Is Behavioural Targeting Dead? and all CMA related events visit our website.

To read all CMA blog posts click here.



About the Author


Jan Wood is Vice President of the Calgary Marketing Association and heads up Events and Partnerships. With over 20 years in the marketing profession both in Canada and Internationally and primarily in product development, Jan offers consulting in the education, health and oil & gas sectors.




Kyla Mackie is a recent graduate from Mount Royal University, where she obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration, with a major in Marketing and minor in International Business and Economics. During her time at University, she was the Co-President of Enactus, a non-profit organization that helps create positive sustainable change through economic, social, and environmental projects. Now, she is working at the Calgary Marketing Association as the Communications Coordinator.

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