4 min read

    Advertising Without Third-Party Cookies

    By Yetunde Abass on 4/22/20 12:11 PM

    It seems like the life of the third-party cookie has finally reached its end. While it has been a staple of digital advertising almost since the advent of the commercial web, the third-party cookie’s power has been slowly chipped away by browser developers, regulators, and consumers.

    The end really began when Apple in 2017 and Mozilla in mid-2019 blocked third-party cookies by default from their respective Safari and Firefox browsers. Next came pushback from consumers with concerns about their privacy, resulting in laws and regulations like GDPR and CCPA. The final blow has come from Google. On its Chromium developers blog, the search engine giant announced that it plans to phase out support for third-party cookies within the next two years. 

    While some brands and advertisers say that this upcoming “cookieless” era will spell the end of digital advertising, we’re inclined to disagree. We think that a world without third-party cookies is actually a better one for consumers, brands, and advertisers, and know that there are cookieless integration solutions that will help you easily transition into this new world of digital advertising. 

    The current cookie landscape 

    While Google’s January 2020 announcement was not necessarily surprising, given the actions taken by Mozilla and Apple, it was still a gut punch to many advertisers who were used to the status quo. By some estimates Chrome has more than two-thirds browser market share, so losing support of this browser is significant.

    Over the past two decades, digital advertising has taken a bigger role in companies’ business models. In the case of many publishers, ad revenue has become their largest source of revenue. Brands and advertisers depend more and more on this medium to bring in new customers. Third-party cookies allowed advertisers to develop more targeted and personalized content than they ever could before. There is a real fear that with Google’s announcement this source of revenue could dry up almost instantly. 

    Ad Industry reaction

    Not long after Google’s announcement, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), announced the launch of Project Rearc, a partnership with all parties involved with digital advertising to “re-architect” a replacement for third-party cookies. Whatever this replacement would turn out to be would prioritize consumer privacy over any other measures. 

    Project Rearc has yet to develop any concrete alternative to the third-party cookie, but has proposed that the solution adhere to the following standards: 

    • The identifier must be encrypted and can’t be re-engineered. 
    • Consumers are in complete control of the use of the identifier.
    • Brands must have assurance that third-parties cannot track consumers with this new identifier without their explicit consent.

    A world without cookies is a better one

    Project Rearc’s focus on a cookie alternative that prioritizes privacy speaks directly to the issues that have plagued third-party cookies almost since their inception. Advertising based on them can seem simultaneously intrusive and irrelevant. One has to look no further than an ad for a pair of shoes that you looked at once, and didn’t like, following you around the web to see third-party cookies run amok. 

    Behavior like this makes it very clear to consumers that their data is being shared, and not even in an effective way. This can result in a loss in trust—which is really what brands need to keep and attract new customers.

    Consumers themselves are also creating their own cookie-free worlds with the increased use of ad blockers. Even without Google ending support of third-party cookies, these tools were already a threat to publishers with an ad revenue-based business model.   

    Using what you already have 

    Your plan for business in a “post-cookie” world probably should not rely on the development of a new identifier that might be fraught with its own problems. It’s time to get back to the basics when thinking about how to advertise to new customers and keep the ones that you have. You can continue to leverage the marketing and adtech tools that you have without needing to rely so heavily on third-party cookies by understanding and utilizing first-party data. 

    First-party cookies are the backbone of the internet and aren’t going anywhere, so start there. You may be surprised by the quality of the first-party data that you already have through cookies and other information in your CRM. If your ultimate goal is to make relevant and contextual advertisements for consumers, start with information that is verifiable. 

    Now may also be the time to utilize social media ecosystems that utilize first-party data while also offering robust opt-in and consent policies. 

    How MetaRouter can help

    MetaRouter is helping our clients transition into the “cookieless” era. We have a solution to using third-party martech and adtech tools that relies solely on first-party cookies. We know that the use of third-party vendors not only raises concerns about privacy, but can slow your site speed down as well. Making dozens of calls to dozens of third parties, increases latency and may drive your customers away. 

    The MetaRouter Enterprise Platform significantly reduces the number of calls that each third-party makes by working with third parties to re-integrate browser tags server-side. This allows for the simplified tracking of analytical data points across all of your digital properties, and centralizes all of your data into a private platform fully controlled and accessible only by your organization. 

    All data points are processed as first-party, yielding better page rankings and more complete insight by eliminating the data gaps caused by ad blockers.  This results in easy compliance with data regulations and security standards by leveraging your existing, secure computing environments. 

    Yetunde Abass

    Written by Yetunde Abass