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What Third Party Cookie End-of-Life Means for You

Posted by Charlie on 13-May-2020 13:39:34

For some time now Google Chrome and other browsers like Safari have been rolling out updates which have been increasing the restrictions placed on third party cookies, and even first party cookies to a degree. Safari was one the first to bring in these changes (on a large scale), but they also have less to lose from these kinds of restrictions. And Microsoft Edge, we don’t really care about (we’ll let you look this up).

Soon things are about to change, drastically! Google Chrome is going to start to ‘phase out’ third party cookies, natively. The intention is to do this within two years; however, changes could come sooner.  But what effect will this have on marketers and where will this leave adtech companies which are solely reliant on these cookies to function?

Browsers which have always valued privacy and discretion above most, such as Firefox and Brave Browser, have all been well ahead of the game. Yet, even though they’ve been blocking these kinds of cookies for some time, no new concrete solution has been found. With Chrome now following suit, adtech companies are really going to need to take this seriously! Chrome is still the most used browser by far and has a complete monopoly over other competitors. In fact, Chrome currently has a 64.45% browser market share. Safari is the only other browser anywhere near Chrome and yet they only have a market share of 17.57%.

The announcement, which came in early Jan, has left many worried about what’s in store for adtech companies (especially those which rely heavily on remarketing). Companies like AdRoll and Criteo, which had previously been doing well (by all accounts) are now going to need to defend their platforms vehemently and find new ways to adapt to these changes.

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What are Third Party Cookies & What are They Used For?

Your browser is full of third-party cookies (most likely). Most websites you visit will drop one of these cookies to track engagement on their site, as well as track you across other placements and platforms. Google Ads also notably uses third-party cookies for advanced audience targeting like ‘Custom Affinity’ and ‘Custom Intent’ audiences which, with their new policy on third-party cookies, could be entirely scrapped!

It’s important to note that Google Analytics tracking is first party – it’s your data. Users should still be given the option to accept or reject your cookies (per GDPR). However, this is first-party data and won’t be natively blocked on Chrome or other devices following these changes.

To summarise:

First-Party Cookies

These will be issued by yourself and track the properties you place them on directly and of which you have ownership. They are often used for UX purposes as well, meaning they provide helpful functions like remembering logins or language selection – and things like this. HubSpot is also known for pre-populating forms, when it know your details already, proving a helpful service.

Third-Party Cookies

These are issued by websites which you don’t control or have ownership of, but you might have access to some kind of adtech.

The Problem for Adtech Companies

With many Adtech companies being solely reliant on third party cookies for a range of functions, a new solution will need to be found swiftly in order to maintain business viability.

Adtech third-party cookies are often used for the following:

  • Targeting
  • Frequency capping
  • Reporting
  • And more…

It’s important to note, Google does have a vested interest in ensuring a solution is found - with 89% of its $160 billion-dollar revenue being at stake.

Thoughts from Adtech Companies

According to Jessica Berman Principal Product Manager at SpotX: “Google has expressed a commitment to develop open-source methods that allow publishers and advertisers to sustain an ad-supported web prior to phasing out third-party cookies,” said Berman. “The end of third-party cookies presents an opportunity for industry-wide collaboration to create a solution that powers advertising in a transparent manner and allows a user to control how their data is collected and used.” 

AdRoll“Google has a deep incentive to make sure that the advertising ecosystem finds a healthy, productive and profitable path forward. While we’re not exactly sure how that will eventually happen, we’re in the conversation and remain confident that Google, with the input of the larger industry, will find a way to protect consumer privacy and create relevant advertising experiences.”

Criteo: “At Criteo, we see a new world coming and we fully embrace it.We believe the industry is long overdue in replacing cookies for personalised ad targeting on the web, and we very much welcome concerted industry efforts to evolve beyond cookies in privacy-safe ways. In an ideal world, we would all work together to share a common universal ID that drives relevant advertising and product recommendations and fuels the open internet.”

According to these guys, everything seems good. However, in a couple years’ time when these changes come into effect? - We’ll have to see! Long story short is that this change has been on the horizon for a while, especially since the whole Cambridge Analytica scandal, which has led to users being even more aware of their data on the web.

Facebook is still trying to recover from people’s loss in faith for the platform. Which has led to rebranding and products like “Portal from Facebook” – all designed to make us like and trust them again. But this still isn’t enough, and people want more control of their data and they want their data to feel private (even if it inevitably isn’t). But the community still hasn’t pulled together in light of this with any single solution and, because of this, we’re sceptical of one being produced in time for this change.

Remarketing and the features that come from third party cookies have become essential to the way we work as marketers. But also, the thing users dislike most about marketers. As marketing is based almost entirely on perception and what people think, just as much as the products or services we’re trying to serve to users, it is essential that this is fixed.

The digital landscape of adtech moves quickly, but over the course of the next two years it’s going to be moving even faster.

What To Do if you’re Using/Planning to Use Adtech

If you’re already using platforms like AdRoll or Criteo, you're fine – for now. You just need to be prepared for some big changes down the line. However, these changes will be affecting everyone, so it’s important to not feel left out. These companies will almost certainly come up with some kind of solution for either the long-term or the short-term. It might not be as robust as the current systems but there’s sure to be something. In the long-term marketers need to be migrating to first party data. That’s the short of it. First party data is the only data you can control so it should be the data you value above all else. Invest in this data and getting the most from it as possible, as all other forms of data will be sure to be affected over the coming years.

If you’re planning on using or moving to a new adtech platform you simply need to evaluate your needs. How long do I plan on using this platform? Is this only for a single campaign? Will my strategy alternatively work on other first-party based platforms? And am I putting all my eggs in one basket?

Depending on the answers to the above questions you can then make your own judgement for using these kinds of platforms.

<h3> Alternatives to Use Now

The most obvious solution to the changes in adtech and remarketing is switching to a more inbound methodology.

Adtech is all about being disruptive, it’s about appearing time and time again and keeping the user engaged with your product or service. However, this isn’t necessarily the most efficient strategy. That’s not to say it doesn’t work, if implemented the correct way. And you can still utilise the inbound methodology here too; by offering helpful advice or guidance.

Inbound is about people coming to you, and one key aspect of that is SEO. Optimising your site to show for when people are actively researching, and throughout all stages of the buyer journey, is key to a successful inbound strategy. Yes, you won’t get the same immediate results. But you’ve got two years to optimise for this – when the changes in Adtech come into effect.

Learn More

If you’d like to learn more about the inbound methodology or would like help in setting up paid advertising campaigns across a range of channels get in touch with our expert team, today. We would be more than happy to help.

Topics: SEO, PPC, Content, Strategy, The State of Marketing