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The Deprecation of Third-Party Cookies: Should Your Marketing Change?

Google’s plan to stop using third-party cookies by the end of 2024 has raised many concerns in the marketing world. This change will give users more privacy while they browse, meeting the demands they prefer today. But what does this change mean for marketers?

As cookies fade out, advertisers face the challenge of finding new ways to connect with their audience without invading their privacy. Entities like The Guardian are stepping up to show how it is done.


The Deprecation of Third-Party Cookies: Should Your Marketing Change?


Recently, it introduced an easy option for its readers to say “no” to cookies. With one click, readers can opt-out completely, enabling the media source to build trust by making privacy simple.

While companies everywhere adjust to these changes, this approach is a clear example of respecting users while continuing to provide valuable, personalized content.

The Guardian's Privacy Initiative

In a world where privacy is becoming a top concern, The Guardian has taken steps to ensure its readers have greater control over their data. Recognizing the importance of transparency and trust, the media giant has launched a new feature that allows users to reject all cookies easily.

This option is prominently displayed to users with a straightforward prompt — “Are you happy to accept cookies?” Readers have three options to choose from — “Yes, I’m happy,” “No, thank you,” and “Manage cookies.” They also have a specific banner for compliance with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that prominently displays when you first visit their site:

The Guardian CCPA Compliance Banner

By clicking the "Do not sell my personal information" option, you can choose to not have The Guardian share data with third parties. The Guardian's introduction of these features is part of a broader effort to adapt to changing regulations and public expectations about data privacy. By making it simpler for readers to opt out of tracking, The Guardian complies with legal requirements and respects user privacy.

Furthermore, it introduced Guardian Light — a new advertising model that allows targeting without relying on cookies. This approach caters to more privacy-conscious advertising methods. Yet, it also shows how The Guardian is finding innovative ways to prioritize the security of its audience while still providing personalized content.

Implications of Third-Party Cookie Deprecation

Cookies have long been the foundation of online advertising. They have enabled marketers to track user behavior across sites to create detailed profiles for targeted advertising. With the phase-out of cookies by Google, the industry faces a challenge where such granular tracking will no longer be possible.

What this implies for marketers across the world involves:

  • Loss in precision targeting: Without third-party cookies, marketers will not have the same level of access to user data. This could lead to reduced ad effectiveness and potentially higher costs as they work hard to reach their ideal audience through less personalized methods.
  • Increased importance of first-party data: The value of first-party data will skyrocket. Marketers will need to enhance their direct interactions and data collection methods to gather actionable insights.
  • Shift toward privacy-focused marketing: Marketers must adopt strategies that respect user privacy and transparency. This includes obtaining explicit consent for data collection and offering clear value in exchange for user information.
  • Rethinking measurement and attribution: Marketers will also need to find new ways to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. Without third-party cookies, traditional methods of tracking conversions and attributing sales to specific campaigns will be less reliable. Alternatives may include more reliance on metrics like view-through conversions, multi-touch attribution, and increased use of Universal IDs.

Strategies for Businesses to Adapt to a Cookie-Less Future

Employees discussing a marketing campaign_336027920

Here are a few strategies to help you navigate a cookie-less future.

1. Consider Your Marketing Priorities

As the digital world shifts away from third-party cookies, enterprises must reassess their marketing priorities. Reevaluating involves knowing which aspects of their current strategies rely heavily on cookie-based tracking and where to adjust with alternative methods.

The goal is to pinpoint where the absence of cookies will be most impactful and to prioritize initiatives that can compensate for this loss.

2. Focus on the Physical Aspects of Marketing

In a cookieless world, organizations will find value in reviving and boosting physical marketing elements. One obvious example is the use of traditional print media like billboards and magazine ads.

Even in 2024, billboard ads remain significant for redirecting users to online platforms and increasing traffic and can boast an impressive 497% return on investment.

If print ads aren’t within your budget, consider one-time purchases to implement into your physical marketing strategy that can provide continual value over time.

For example, moving posters and LED walls could serve as marketing opportunities that you can “set and forget,” as LED walls have an average lifespan of 11.5 years and require minimal maintenance.

Or, interactive installations in public spaces can engage potential customers and create memorable experiences without much ongoing upkeep.

Similarly, creative strategies like one-time pop-up events can generate buzz and allow passersby to interact with a brand even on a budget.

3. Invest in a CRM system

A CRM system is essential for collecting first-party data and enhancing personalization. Rather than collecting through passive tracking, firms can rely on the data their customers willingly provide.

CRM systems enable companies to consolidate customer interactions across various channels into a single platform. This allows for more targeted and meaningful engagements, allowing marketers to build a loyal customer base.

4. Shift to Contextual Advertising

Contextual targeting is another way to personalize advertising by aligning ads with the web page's content rather than relying on past user behavior. This strategy involves placing ads based on the relevance of the subject matter the user is viewing. It is still an effective method of targeting without infringing on privacy.

5. Familiarize Yourself with Google’s Privacy Sandbox

Google’s Privacy Sandbox is critical for marketers to understand and integrate into their strategies. This set of technologies aims to create a more private web while allowing advertisers to deliver targeted ads and measure their effectiveness. The Privacy Sandbox proposes a series of APIs designed to replace the functionality cookies traditionally provide.

For example, the Federated Learning of Cohorts offers a way to reach people with similar browsing habits without individually identifying them. The Sandbox may prevent detailed tracking, but advertisers can still access ad targeting and conversion measurement.

Adapting to a New Era of Digital Marketing

With the phasing out of third-party cookies, marketers must prepare to change and innovate strategies. Whether it is revitalizing an older strategy like contextual advertising or investing in CRM systems, businesses can thrive in a privacy-first environment.

Consider devising a plan to help you adapt and find better ways to connect with your target audience.

Need Help Creating Content That Leverages Cookieless Strategies?

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Eleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a prominent digital marketing agency prior to becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.