Open Mic Cookies Data

The cookie's finally crumbling: here’s what marketers do (and don’t) need to worry about



Open Mic article

This content is produced by a publishing partner of Open Mic.

Open Mic is the self-publishing platform for the marketing industry, allowing members to publish news, opinion and insights on

Find out more

February 27, 2024 | 8 min read

2024's finally seeing Google’s long-awaited deprecation of third-party cookies become a reality, and many marketers are confused – not to mention a little scared. But a lot of this worry is misplaced, says Brady Gadberry, SVP head of data products, Acxiom.

For almost four years, digital marketers have been looking ahead to the deprecation of third-party cookies on Chrome. I say looking ahead, because very few would say they’ve been "looking forward" to it. But ready or not, the day finally came on January 4, 2024, when Google started its long-anticipated phase-out

The reason for marketers’ misgivings is simple: there’s not a great deal of clarity about what cookie deprecation means – and what life will be like for brands in a post-cookie world. Which also means some of the worry is misplaced. 

Here’s my take on the things that do – and don’t – warrant concern, so brands can act now and get ready for their cookieless future.

What marketers shouldn't worry about with cookie deprecation?  

The end of third-party cookies doesn’t mean the end of third-party data

First things first: predictive data signals don’t start and end with third-party cookies. There’s a whole world of third-party data beyond the cookie.

Here’s a common question: where will the data come from if not from cookies? Answer: the same places it’s always come from, and maybe a few more emerging sources that will grow to fill the gap. 

Third-party data, of which third-party cookies were only one source of consumer intent and behavior, will continue to be a major source. Take transactional data, for example. Many brands are embracing a transactional data strategy, using purchase information to power people-based insights that demographic data alone cannot unlock. 

Second-party data, which is essentially someone else’s first-party data, will continue to grow – powered in part by collaboration technologies like data clean rooms. 

Then of course there’s first-party data, like behavioral data from a brand’s own website, which brands will use in conjunction with second- and third-party data to expand their reach. 

I’ve written about different ways marketers can think about first-, second-, and third-party data, but the thing to remember is cookies were just one part of collecting these signals. In fact, third-party data is still essential to acquiring new customers. 

The other lever marketers will increasingly pull, besides data, is intelligence. AI and advanced machine learning increase your ability to make use of your first-party data and make predictions about who is likely to respond based on new available insights. This capability is accelerating rapidly.

Other technologies are rushing to fill the gap  

We’ve established the end of cookies isn’t the end of data – it’s not even the end of third-party data. The signal gaps that cookie deprecation creates will be filled by other predictive data and marketing technologies. (The madtech world abhors a vacuum.)

But another burning question remains: how do we get that data fully activated in the ad ecosystem? There are alternative IDs (like RealID, RampID, ID5 or UID2) and advances in technologies like data clean rooms that will fill the cookie-shaped hole, enabling brands to share data safely in new privacy-respecting ways.

As technologies evolve, we’ll see some strange bedfellows among companies that are what you might call ecosystem “frenemies” – all in pursuit of the bigger goal: marketing precision at scale. Today, none of these new IDs independently has the full scale necessary to completely replace the cookie ecosystem. But as you work with your adtech partners, ask how they can be leveraged together.

The continued rise of data clean room and collaboration tech allows brands to safely share data directly from brand to brand (i.e., second-party data creation), and from brand to publisher.  But while brands are experiencing the shifts caused by cookies, there’s also another shift: from display advertising toward video (CTV, ATV, digital, and data-driven linear).

Across the board, we’ll see greater addressability thanks to first-party data from authenticated streaming subscribers. None of this growing ecosystem was built to be dependent on third-party cookies, so in case my point wasn’t clear enough, marketers should be assured that there are extremely powerful ad mediums still available to them that aren’t cookie-based.

What should marketers worry about with cookie deprecation?

Cookies did provide some great benefits to the ecosystem, fulfilling two basic needs. First, the ability to access data signals about who (typically in an pseudonymous manner) might find an ad relevant. And second, cookies formed the connective tissue for all manner of data from site to site, through the adtech ecosystem.

Cookies were the connective tissue in the adtech ecosystem

The ad ecosystem has grown up with cookies as the connective tissue, and lots of its infrastructure has been consolidated around the cookie – from publishers through SSPs and DSPs

So much of the connective tissue that enabled cross-channel measurement will vanish with the deprecation of cookies. The question of how we do cross-channel measurement in an efficient, more decentralized way remains unanswered. Currently, the great advances in clean-room tech still leave us with more channel- or publisher-specific measurement capabilities.

There’s traditionally been separation in the demand-side and supply-side; that was bridged via cookies. There will be more change as the traditional roles of these parts of the ecosystem evolve, consolidate, and find new ways to ensure that data flows effectively.

It will be more complex and will take more relationships – at least until the ecosystem matures again and adapts to the new normal. 

Big players are still big players

Things could get harder for smaller publishers and smaller brands, too. The centralized oligopoly in advertising and adtech won’t go away. In fact, it could consolidate its power in a post-cookie world.

Google will become that much more powerful because it has that much first-party user data. It’s effectively both the gatekeeper and a player itself – the same as Meta. Google Sandbox doesn’t replace all the features and capabilities that marketers are used to relying on. There are new and useful features, but it’s very early and the shift will take work. Even then, it effectively means actions that used to take place in the broader ecosystem happen solely within Google and Chrome. 

The world isn't ending, but it’s changing

I hope that by going back to basics a little on people-based data beyond the cookie, I’ve dispelled some of the misplaced worry that marketers are feeling right now. But the fact remains a lot of this still needs to be figured out.

Brands can continue to create great experiences for people, using the data and tech at their disposal, because the end of third-party cookies doesn’t mean the end of predictive data. Far from it. The ecosystem is adapting in a changing world (it always has), and marketers will adapt with it.

Open Mic Cookies Data


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +