Predicting 2024 As The Transformative Year of Tag Removal and Moving to a Real Time, Server-Side Data Strategy

In an era where 3rd-party cookie deprecation, Chrome's Privacy Sandbox, and evolving regulations reshape marketing, MetaRouter pioneers a new narrative.

Predicting 2024 As The Transformative Year of Tag Removal and Moving to a Real Time, Server-Side Data Strategy

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A letter from MetaRouter Head of Product, Greg Brunk.

As we stand on the cusp of a new year, I'm making a prediction for 2024:

The era of 3rd-party tagging and legacy tag management mechanisms to power marketing and advertising models will finally draw to a close, and enterprises everywhere will begin to shift towards more highly controlled, real-time, first-party collection techniques that provide better transparency, quality, and sustainable performance.

Seems a bit self-serving considering what we do, sure... But I want to share a little bit about why I have so much confidence in that claim. With rapid 3rd-party cookie deprecation, the introduction of Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox, and a swiftly evolving regulatory landscape, 2024 stands to be a highly disruptive year in marketing and advertising, but we think there is much to be gained by staying ahead of the curve.

Having been a pioneer in the space for a long time, MetaRouter has witnessed firsthand the negative impacts incurred through the proliferation of pixels, tags, and client-side scripting currently being leveraged to inform third party services of user behavior across digital properties. While tales of malicious or broken tags impacting revenue and site security have long been within the industry's zeitgeist, technology providers have still focused their efforts primarily on easing the deployment of this code (and controlling access to your customer data) while largely deflecting the privacy and performance impacts their tags and collection systems introduce. We’ve seen fine after fine, and millions in lost revenue (often in a single day) thanks to poorly controlled 3rd-party tooling. These very issues are the reason so much in our industry is already changing with the deprecation of 3rd-party cookies and solutions like Privacy Sandbox that aim to add a stronger privacy lens on how users are targeted. In many ways, we fully support these tighter controls. After all, we’re all just people who want our data and personal information protected.

But we’ve seen that largely only those enterprises previously bitten by the shortcomings of legacy tagging systems have actively pursued ways to leverage more controlled, server-side solutions for integrating data with their advertising and marketing vendors, only to abandon those efforts due to measurement discrepancies, limited integration support, data restrictions, infrastructure overhead, or increased technical debt. 

As current and planned browser limitations increase the importance of first party data collection, control and governance around the way this information proliferates throughout an organization's internal and external technology landscape is coming under renewed scrutiny, and is increasingly more important to an enterprises overall posture around customer data. Those companies MetaRouter works with, who have prioritized their data collection strategies with our first-party Customer Data Infrastructure capabilities are seeing a massive competitive edge manifesting from greater data capture governance at the point of collection, increased signal density via first-party consumer endpoints, adaptable consent enforcement, and increased web-property and marketing performance.

Generally speaking, our goal is to give our customers total control over their own data, and deliver a more future-proofed, real-time data integration architecture that puts performance, data quality, privacy and compliance at the center of success.

Let’s unpack this a bit and talk about why this approach is important for every data, advertising, and marketing team to consider.

Historically, tag managers were built to streamline the process of implementing and managing third-party tracking code on websites and applications. The original benefits included simplifying code deployment, allowing marketers to add and update tags without relying on developers, and providing a centralized platform for better simplicity and efficiency in managing various tracking scripts.

While they definitely deliver on the promise of ease, the reality is that they introduce a myriad of detrimental issues ranging from decreased conversion and SEO performance, to data leakage and security risk, to privacy and compliance uncertainty, and increased technical debt and site fragility. More importantly, enterprises are still fully dependent on the 3rd-party tags running on their owned media, fully handing over data access to those 3rd-parties without any restrictions - meaning they can use it any way they want and fully grade their own homework on marketing and ad performance. At MetaRouter, we knew that relinquishing control this way was poorly suited to the modern enterprise and we're on a mission to give our customers back control of their own data.

Most companies offering server-side tagging solutions and CAPI integrations, despite promising progress, have been slow to fully adopt these models. Their limitations are typically three-fold, with the first being their reliance on community-built integrations that lack the enterprise support and maintenance necessary in an ever-changing technology landscape. Secondly, their intrinsic multi-tenant SaaS design makes them more susceptible to browser and plugin restrictions around third party endpoints. And finally, their inability to provide measurement parity to their client-side counterparts, especially for anonymous users, introduces data discrepancies that aggravate marketing teams at best, and negatively influence strategic digital strategies at worst. As a result, most of what you’ll find are “hybrid solutions” that allow for server-side delivery of data when PII is present, but leaving the tags in place on the page for everything else. MetaRouter, however, is all in, and we are powering real time, server-side data integration with dozens of vendors for some of the biggest enterprises in the world, all in fully private cloud environments they totally control.

That’s where we are today… but where are we going?

The questions we’re tackling right now are what happens when GDPR/CCPA-like solutions fully hit the United States at a broad/federal level? How will widespread 3rd-party cookie deprecation (slotted for EOY 2024) and the introduction of Google’s Privacy Sandbox and Safari’s Storage API fundamentally change how data is collected and used to power marketing and advertising models, and how can we make adoption of these new models as simple and efficient as possible for our customers? How can anonymous activation from your CDP and retargeting efforts find a new home when 3rd-parties lose direct access to your data from the page? Most importantly, how can respect for user privacy and security serve as a value-additive driver for deeper, more meaningful customer relationships? We have several product lines and features in the works that we hope will help digitally maturing enterprises stay ahead of the curve in this turbulent landscape, and I am excited to share those with the world throughout the year.

As 2024 brings a renewed focus on first-party customer data collection, data intensive AI/ML strategies, and the ever increasing focus on data privacy and compliance, I’m excited that our product, processes, and industry hardened experts are directionally aligned with where the industry is moving, and that we have such a great head start. Maybe we can help your business capitalize on that head start?

Wishing you a prosperous 2024.

Greg Brunk, Head of Product at MetaRouter