Adapting to a World Without Third Party Cookies
Jan 20 2022
There’s a constant struggle in marketing between providing users with relevant, useful ads and overstepping the bounds of privacy. For years, third party cookies have played a central role in helping brands create targeted, personalized advertising. Now targeting and personalization are more important than ever, but with an added wrinkle — third party cookies are subject to increasingly-stringent privacy requirements limiting how and when data can be shared.
Understanding how third party cookies work, why they are fading from the marketing landscape as more users opt out of private data sharing, and how advertisers plan to adapt is the key to future marketing success. Here’s an overview of how sunsetting third party data is already changing the world of advertising:
What Are Third Party Cookies and How Have They Been Used?
Third party cookies are the reason certain ads seem to “follow” you across different websites based on your past browser history. For example, if you conduct a brief search for affordable used cars in your area, your web browser would store a third-party cookie and apply this information to better inform your targeted advertisements.
Companies in the habit of buying and selling this third party data led to concerns over user privacy, bringing us to present-day privacy updates turning control of this data back over to users and offering greater insight into what data is being requested, who can see it, and what it can be used for.
What to Expect Post-Third Party Cookies
Advertisers experienced several disruptions to existing campaign setups over the past 18 months, first in the form of the CCPA (a California-specific privacy mandate requiring users to opt-in to data sharing) and culminating in the now-infamous iOS 14 tracking update that hit mobile devices in April 2021. While third party cookies for web-based sites haven’t disappeared just yet, Google has designs to do away with them in 2023.
Each of these changes represent a growing departure from behind-the-scenes data buying and selling, as privacy safety measures return control of user data back to the consumer in the form of a simple pop-up you’re likely familiar with (spend five minutes anywhere online and you’ll probably spot an “Accept all cookies?” prompt). Since these sweeping updates, marketers have been forced to adopt new ways of targeting potential shoppers, particularly on mobile devices.
How Brands Can Turn Data Privacy Into a Net Positive
Data privacy is important to consumers, which means it’s important to every business that cares about its customers and their values. Respecting customer privacy can benefit companies twofold:
First, it means that the data they do receive from users is reliable. Though the reach of available third-party data may not be what it once was, consumer profiles can now be based almost entirely on first-party data, providing a more accurate image and more relevant insights into customer behavior. Increased focus on fine-tuning your own company’s data collection methods can also lead to breakthroughs in brand messaging.
Second, the data gathered directly from customers is intentional. By spreading social content across different channels using your newly fine-tuned messaging and drawing in a higher volume of qualified users, brands can successfully uncover what these audience needs are and how they differ by age, demographic, and platform.
Companies just starting out may not have access to as much usable first-party data, but they can still apply third-party techniques to web-based platforms and sites for the time being and evaluate what their brand can offer in the form of a value exchange in the future. Providing discounts to new customers willing to fill out a survey or otherwise incentivising shoppers to share their information can build a robust catalogue of customer data in a relatively short period of time.
How Advertisers Can Adapt
Relying less on the third-party cookie economy doesn’t mean ad tracking goes entirely out the window. Campaigns can still secure user data through APIs like Google Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox, mobile ad IDs (which tend to be ultra-reliable, as most people shop on their own mobile devices), or make certain content available in exchange for first-party data.
Normalizing first-party data-based campaigns poses a major opportunity for advertisers, since brand-owned data can still inform all the previously-available targeting levers and platform-specific campaign tools you’ve likely become familiar with (lookalike audiences, email lists, cart-abandonment and other dynamic retargeting options, to name a few).
Here are a few other common approaches advertisers are utilizing to adapt to recent privacy measures limiting the use of third party data:
Leverage native advertising to expand your audience on social media feeds. Native ads are an opportunity to directly control the brand message and user experience, and are demonstrably more readable and shareable on social media compared to display ads. Native strategies work best when they’re informative while matching the look and feel of their surrounding platform — 70% of consumers say they prefer learning about products or services through content rather than traditional advertising.
Create ad groups targeting “Only Trackable Users” on The Trade Desk platform to cater to your customers’ journey across devices and channels where your ads will have the most impact. Cross-device targeting will reveal valuable insights into how your audience acts and which behaviors, devices, and experiences lead to the most conversions.
Implement device ID-based targeting strategies away from mobile Safari by serving ads across in-app environments. In-app advertising provides precise first-party data gathered from the app’s policy agreement usually required in order to download. Matching mobile device IDs to users allows your brand to reliably target by geo-location and other personalized options.
Develop quality content in line with the ideal specifications for each marketing channel, including video ads where appropriate (which is most places). Video content in 2020 saw 10x more twitter engagement than tweets with only text, increased the shareability of LinkedIn content by
20x, generated the most engagement of any content type on Instagram, and made Pinterest users 2.6x more likely to make a purchase.