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Picking Up the Crumbs: Understanding Cookiepocalypse and The Future of Targeting

Everyone enjoys a good cookie, but no one enjoys the crumbs that result from munching on them. Digital cookies and the looming Cookiepocalypse are no different. You may have heard recent rumblings about cookies and wondered: what is going on? In this blog, we will explore all things cookies – what they are, how the Cookiepocalypse is impacting advertisers, and what changes you can begin making now to ensure your business is successful when those BIG changes come along.

What are cookies?

Digital cookies, or HTTP cookies, are small bits of data created while users browse the web. Every page of content you digest is like having a cookie. You’re happy you found the recipe, help, or pop-culture reference you just can’t seem to recall. The fact you visited the web page and your actions while on the site, are the crumbs. And recently people are starting to be increasingly aware of the digital “messes” they leave behind; insert Cookiepocalypse.

What is the difference between first-party and third-party cookies?

Think of it this way, first-party cookies are like going to a local bakery and grabbing your favorite crumbly treat from the source directly. The owner or staff over time will remember your name and may even remember your order to make that next visit as smooth as softened butter! Third-party cookies are like ordering from that same bakery but using a delivery service. Your cookies may still be just as delicious, but they go from the hands at the bakery, to the delivery driver, sit next to another order, and their entire journey from beginning to end is mapped.

Buying something directly from a vendor site will leave behind first-party cookies. Buying that same item but through a proxy (like from an ad on social media), will leave behind third-party cookies.

  • Which is better? It is relatively common knowledge among marketers that first-party data is more valuable than third-party data. It’s kind of like having a website versus having an Instagram page. It’s always better to own your information rather than build on someone else’s.

What is ‘Cookiepocalypse’ and why are cookies going away?

– Michael Magee,
Sr. Digital Media Specialist, Chacka Marketing

“Cookiepocalypse” is a term coined to refer to the present push-back on the data that cookies gather, and the discontinuance of their use in advertisements. Not just for the data they collect, but for the fact that they are not easily identifiable to the everyday consumer; individuals are concerned for their privacy.

The origin of Cookiepocalypse stems from tech giants, specifically Google depreciating third-party cookies.    

A brief history of Cookies:

  • 1994: Cookies were introduced in 1994.
  • 2011: EU law required website owners to show to consumers they are using cookies and ask for consent
  • 2020: Google announced it plans to phase out third-party cookies by 2023
  • 2022: Google delayed the phaseout of third-party cookies in Chrome (for a second time) until the later part of 2024. The original date was set for mid-2022, but due to feedback and a general lack of urgency in the industry, it was prolonged.

Why is it delayed again? VP of Google Sandbox said “the most consistent feedback we have received is the need for more time to evaluate and test the new Privacy Sandbox technologies before deprecating third-party cookies in Chrome. This will give developers more time to test the APIs and expand the Privacy Sandbox trials to more users across the world.”

While they currently have a bad reputation, HTTP cookies do serve a positive function in our day-to-day lives. They handle why your favorite website loads faster, that favorite online retailer can automatically sign you in, and why ads seem so relevant to you.

How do advertisers prepare?

  1. Lessen reliance on third-party data: As an advertiser, the best way to prepare for the pending cookie-less future is to lessen reliance on third-party data. Instead, opt for other forms of audience targeting such as first-party, or purchase intent data; as well as buying media placements directly for channels used most often by your clients.
  2. Check your website: For brands, you should ensure your website is up to par with cookie requirements, both state and international, for where you do business.
  3. Focus on creating a first-party data file of your own: While cookies will soon be out via third-party, most if not all platforms allow for the uploading of data OWNED by the brand. That first-party information is potent in reaching your target audience and driving efficiency in your marketing efforts.
  4. Talk with technology & service partners: Ask them how they are preparing for the depreciation of cookies and push them for concise solutions currently being discussed or that are already implemented in their practices.

About the author: Michael Magee is Sr. Digital Media Specialist at Chacka Marketing. He has over six years of experience in digital marketing with a focus on programmatic and social media.

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