The end of third party cookies: What it means for digital marketing

December 11, 2023



The end of third party cookies: What it means for digital marketing
The advertising landscape is changing as we know it. By the end of 2023, no major browser will support tracking via third-party cookies as Google finally phases out support of third-party cookies on Chrome. Over the coming months, companies will need to navigate the challenge that their demise poses and rethink the way they deliver personalised experiences. But the shift presents a huge opportunity to deliver strategies that completely redefine a user’s online experience and set your business apart. 

In 2020, Google announced that it would stop the support of third-party cookies on Chrome by 2022. *Explosive noise* The decision was part of a company-wide cultural shift to re-architect the standards and values of the web and make it privacy-preserving by default. At the time of the announcement, people were vocally peeved at the lack of transparency, choice and control over the use of their data as it became increasingly clear it was being abused  through third-party cookies. So it decided to remove such cookies to meet the increasing demand for a more secure, private web. “People shouldn't have to accept being tracked across the web in order to get the benefits of relevant advertising. And advertisers don’t need to track individual consumers across the web to get the performance of digital advertising,” it wrote. Powerful, right? But fast forward to now and it’s still chomping away on those third-party cookies.

On our behalf, apparently. 

Google has delayed the phase out until mid 2023 because, and we’re paraphrasing quite liberally here, it didn’t want to leave digital marketers high and dry like the other major browsers did. And because it’s trying to save face. You see, all the way back in 2020, it promised that it would use its two year timeline to develop alternatives to the third party cookie that would protect anonymity while still delivering results for advertisers. So the company is busy doing that - trying to build an option that works for both sides. But the death knell has been sounded and our days of using third party data are numbered. 

Now, all of this isn’t coming around because Google suddenly decided to go on a moral crusade. It’s happening because of industry practices. The growth in online ad revenues over the past few decades is due, in large part, to the targeting that third-party cookies enable. They have allowed us to connect marketing strategies with results in ways that were otherwise impossible in more traditional forms of media and have led to unprecedented audience segmentation and attribution. And that’s part of the issue. As the industry has strived to deliver increasingly personalised and timely content, it has created an invasive, almost thoughtless, user experience that has led to a complete erosion of trust. Rather than targeting web users, companies are following (dare we say, stalking) them around the web. And consumers have had enough. The things that were once endearing - the attentiveness, the level of care, how companies noticed ‘the little things’ - have become overbearing, annoying and aggressively inconsiderate. 

But personalisation isn’t the issue. Users still want and crave an emotionally resonant experience. The frustration is rooted in the fact that they are seeing details of their lives, interests and behaviour reflected back in advertising that has teetered from contextually sensitive to inauthentic.

Here’s the thing. This is all great news. The end of third-party cookies is giving companies a rare opportunity to build back the trust that such tracking eroded. Businesses will be able to refocus marketing strategies, detach from siloed, short term thinking that third-party data breeds, and create and maximise channel synergies that offer real insight for real behavioural change. Crucially, the cookiepocolypse will allow brands to take a step back and reimagine how to achieve relevance and performance through targeted online advertising  and serve their consumers needs for a more personal, human experience. Far from the end, this could be the very beginning.

Contact us to find out how we can help you make the most of the change. 

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