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What will the future of advertising look like without 3rd party cookies?

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A cookie is information about a user that a web browser stores on a computer or other smart device. This information is then used to identify, track and collect specific information about Internet users, such as preferences for certain pages and content or their online shopping habits.

The most important for advertising are 3rd party cookies, which are stored on the user’s device by partner websites, which, for example, display advertisements on the original site. Third parties can thus collect user data from different websites and use it for different purposes. As such cookies constitute an invasion of user privacy, their use is also regulated by the European Union. In 2012, the Electronic Communication Act from the European directive, gives users the opportunity to decide their stance on cookies.

Some web browsers (Safari and Firefox) went a step further and eliminated 3rd party cookies. Google also intends to take this path with its Chrome browser, which is expected to stop supporting third-party cookies by 2022, and will set up its own alternative for advertising purposes.

Although it is not yet clear how regulators will react to Google’s strengthening of their monopoly, marketers are rapidly preparing for the future without 3rd party cookies, on which online advertising is almost entirely based today.

Google’s monopoly?

So if blocking 3rd party cookies is nothing new, the fact that Chrome will do the same is important news. Google’s browser is used globally by about 65% of web users.

3rd party cookies have been around for a number of years and during this time they have defined the world of marketing and the ways in which companies address their consumers. Now that they are disappearing, marketers are faced with a big challenge: how to reach (potential) customers and how to follow them in order to retarget them?

Anyone who will use Google’s advertising solutions need not fear, as the company will provide its products with an alternative technology with the umbrella name Sanbox. Under the guise of caring for the privacy of online users, Google wants to completely subjugate the entire advertising industry, which is of course problematic and at odds with the concept of the free market.

But until lawmakers and market regulators do their job and step on Google’s toes, marketers need to prepare for the darkest scenario. So what can you do when retargeting with 3rd party cookies is no longer possible?

3rd party cookie alternatives

Use of own cookies with a unified ID

Many identification solutions offer their own unified IDs, which only works if all stakeholders of a digital advertising ecosystem are involved. This means that online publishers, SSP and DMP platforms, and advertisers must use the same, unique, and standardized cookie-based identifier. This would be defined as your own (1st party) cookie, but you could use it as a 3rd party cookie e.g. for personalization, targeted advertising, and performance measurement.

The biggest concern that arises is the question of independence. Who will control the central ID, on which everyone else will then depend?

Use of own cookies and contextualization

This approach puts power primarily in the hands of publishers (media) and the supply side of the ecosystem. The use of context-sensitive cookies requires publishers to get to know their users / visitors well and provide them with the best possible service and user experience. Advertisers will need to know and understand ad space providers, as they will no longer be able to rely on 3rd party tracking cookies. But where will they get the data?

User and CRM login information reveals accurate demographic and other personal information to publishers (media and other ad space owners) and provides insight into users’ interests. The context, however, is key to ensuring that the owner of a website, medium or application understands what its content is and for whom it is relevant.

In this way, it will not only address the right audience, but will also attract the right advertisers for that audience. Content partnerships are an ideal solution for advertisers who have successfully identified the type of content that interests their target audience and established cooperation with providers of such content.

As we have seen, both publishers, ad space providers, and advertisers are accelerating their preparations for the future without tracking cookies. Until 2022, when the 3rd party cookies are finally blocked, many more things can happen.

Don’t wait for tomorrow, act now!