A Third of Marketing Leaders Say They’re Not Ready for Third-Party Cookies’ Demise

The death of the third-party cookie on Chrome in 2023 dominated the martech discussion in 2021, but a third of marketing leaders say they are still not ready for the effect it will have on marketing. That’s according to a Lytics survey conducted by Sapio Research in October that polled 256 marketing leaders to assess the future of data-driven marketing.

The figures are helpful for understanding just how reliant digital marketing is on the third-party cookie, which allows marketers to track potential customers across sites other than their own. Eighty-six percent of respondents said their marketing strategies rely on third-party cookies.

Why the cookie is going away

Safari and Firefox have already killed the third-party cookie. Google is joining the trend in 2023, nixing them on the largest browser, Chrome.

The cookie’s demise is part of a broader shift in digital marketing away from online tracking without consumer consent. Third-party cookies generally allow businesses to track customers online without their knowledge. Due to both restrictions by private gatekeepers such as Google and Apple and public regulations, that’s not going to fly anymore.

Where marketing is headed after the cookie

With the third-party cookie going away, marketers will spend more on the walled gardens: mostly Big Tech ecosystems where the publishers (e.g., Google, Facebook, and Amazon) have a massive amount of first-party consumer data and can therefore enable granular targeting and measurement.

Sixty-two percent of marketers said they would spend more on walled gardens like Facebook. Fifty-one percent said they would focus more on owned channels such as email.

The other big trend is increased focus on first-party data: information collected through a direct relationship between business and consumer. Ninety-two percent said first-party data will be “more valuable than ever,” and 45% said they will increase efforts to collect it.

Why there’s no silver bullet here

First-party data isn’t a 1:1 replacement for the cookie. The precise reason marketers turned to third-party cookies was to collect customer information at scale and flesh out audience profiles. Forty percent said they would struggle to create a holistic audience profile with a strategy focused on first-party data, and 36% cited insufficient data as a roadblock to effective marketing after the third-party cookie.

Similarly, depending on the walled gardens is a deal many advertisers would prefer not to make. The tech giants can change their algorithms and rules at any time, and they don’t necessarily need to share data on their users, meaning advertisers are both working in the dark and opening themselves up to sudden, drastic changes in how they build their businesses.

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018 and compiled the daily newsletter since 2016. Joe is a journalist who has written widely about technology, business, and politics. You can contact him at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.
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