As the death of the third-party cookie looms, the industry has set its sights on email as a possible identity-linked alternative. However, this approach turns its back on consumer sentiment and blindly ignores the need for a mix of privacy-centric solutions, argues UM Worldwide’s chief digital officer Joshua Lowcock.

The advertising and marketing industry prides itself on being attuned to cultural and consumer trends. The cost of getting this wrong isn’t just the pain of wasted media spend, but the risk of backlash or embarrassment for an awkward “How do you do, fellow kids?” moment.

When it comes to privacy and reading the tea leaves, the collective industry has been unable to truly embrace the changing tide of consumer sentiment, overt signals from the technology industry and warnings from regulators.

We all know that the days are numbered for third-party cookies and mobile advertising identifiers. Delays to proposals such as Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), driven by regulatory concerns, are not a reprieve because macro trends remain. Increasingly, regulators and the public are airing their concerns over privacy, unfettered data collection and data-driven advertising.

Instead of really hearing the concerns, the industry marches blindly forward and is positioning email as the panacea for when the cookie crumbles. Email addresses are being held up as the primary mechanism to provide an alternative to cookies and mobile IDs – enabling everything from addressable advertising to ID graphs – all wrapped in the promise that email is a unique, persistent identifier that will set everyone up for the future.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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