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Third Party Cookie Cookies Marketing

In 2024, the cookie will slowly crumble – don’t wait to act

By Ben Wood, Performance director



The Drum Network article

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January 19, 2024 | 7 min read

Hallam’s Ben Wood gives a performance marketers’ take on the year ahead of slow cookie deprecation. His advice? Accept that the cookies are gone. Move on.

Some cookies

As third-party Chrome cookies slowly disappear, Hallam's Ben Wood recommends immediate action / Julissa Capdevilla via Unsplash

We’ve been talking about the demise of third-party cookies for the past 4 years. While Firefox and Safari have been blocking cookies since 2019, Google has repeatedly kicked the can down the road when it comes to phasing out third-party cookies on Chrome.

To date, cookie deprecation has been tested among a small cohort of volunteers on Chrome. But on January 4, Google finally disabled third-party cookies for 1% of randomly selected Chrome users globally.

Individuals involved in the test will get the choice to “Browse with enhanced privacy” upon launching Chrome on desktop or Android. Expansion beyond the initial 1% will be a phased process, taking place in the latter part of this year.

The perfect storm: Marketers’ challenge as to cookie crumbles

Measurement is consistently cited as the number-one challenge by marketers – due to the impact of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency shift, default opt-out cookie policies, and Firefox and Safari ITP and ETP policies.

While Safari and Firefox have been blocking cookies for years, Google has over 60% of the global browser market share. So this recent shift will impact our activity noticeably.

If we also consider the macroeconomic pressures we’ve been facing for at least 18 months, there will be continued scrutiny on proving ROI in 2024. The challenge for marketers will be doing more with less; proving returns is only going to get more difficult with the Chrome changes.

With just 1% of browsers impacted for now, there’ll be minimal impact on tracking, targeting, and measurement in the short term. But expect major disruption later this year as Google heads toward complete deprecation.

This disruption will include an inability to measure individual conversion journeys. Particularly with the complication of cross-device tracking, it will be even more challenging to correlate ad exposure with performance. To counter this, Google will employ modeling techniques to estimate lost conversions. ‘Consent mode’ is an example already in place in Google Ads.

There will also be increased challenges in campaign reach and frequency. Grasping the overall ad exposure for an individual becomes more difficult given the difficulty in identifying them across devices.

Finally, expect a decline in conversion numbers as Google loses the capability to track the influence of ad impressions on conversions for this 1% subset of Chrome users.

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Preparing now for full cookie deprecation

The reality is that many brands are still more reliant on third-party data than they’d want to admit, but with Google finally taking action to remove third-party cookies we’ll need to embrace a privacy-first mindset in the year ahead.

Expect most disruption to measurement (rather than targeting) initially, with digital attribution, primarily powered by 3PC, set to see the biggest shake-up in decades.

Here’s how to get started preparing over the next few months:

First, revise your measurement strategies: Embrace comprehensive measurement solutions such as experimentation, marketing mix modelling (MMM), and brand lift studies, instead of relying solely on digital attribution. Digital attribution will become less reliable than ever in 2024.

Second, leverage first-party data – a valuable resource for discovering new audiences, retargeting existing ones, and gaining insights into audience demographics.

Third, consider new targeting approaches. Embrace contextual-first methodologies to future-proof strategies, ensuring relevance to your audience in pivotal moments. In the absence of third-party cookies and potential ineffectiveness of Privacy Sandbox products, contextual data emerges as a future-proofed solution for targeted ads.

And finally, invest in creative to enhance contextual ads impact. With a recent report citing that 52% of advertising spend is wasted on poor quality creative, clearly, creative is still an afterthought for many. We must not place more emphasis on the targeting than the message itself. And without cookies to help us with granular targeting, creativity will be more important than ever.

How quickly Google ramps up testing to a larger percentage of Chrome users will determine the likely impact on your measurement and targeting capabilities in the coming months. My advice? Embrace the loss of third-party cookies today, and start trialing alternative solutions for ad targeting and measurement, rather than clinging on to soon-to-be defunct features.

Third Party Cookie Cookies Marketing

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