The deprecation of third-party cookies has been in the works for quite some time. Many browsers have already gone through with it and a few others, including Chrome, are still in progress. While there has been an air of dread regarding this change, I think some of the negatives may be overstated. This is especially evidenced by the frequent pushbacks of the official date of deprecation has been moved by Google several times. Losing access to data is always annoying and losing the ability to have a serviceable audience almost immediately from a person your company has never interacted with will definitely hurt companies who love large-volume audience testing but there are a few silver linings.
Fewer audiences might save time and money
Being shown an audience practically labeled “Rich people that like to spend money” is all too common. If you’ve been in the advertising game for a while, you’ve seen it or something just like it and if you’ve tested it you know how wild the results can be. I’m not saying all of these audiences are bad or that you can’t layer on additional things to make them work, just that the perfect-sounding name often winds up being far from perfect in terms of performance. Reducing the availability of audiences like this, especially for nascent marketers could actually save companies serious money that they can direct towards other activities.
People will almost definitely find ways around it
Change always breeds innovation, and this change is no different. Saying browsers will no longer support third-party cookies just means alternatives will be developed. Many ABM vendors (knowing how strongly this change would impact their business) have already developed alternatives to third-party cookies such as device fingerprinting and reverse ip lookups that can glean much of the same data third-party cookies did and allow them to provide practically the same services they did prior to the changes. This, though not perfect, was developed quickly and in response to the news 3rd party cookies would no longer be supported. Now that these companies are no longer having an existential crisis, look to them to be more proactive in their innovations toward the future of digital tracking.
Removal of 3rd party inherently increases the value of 1st party
Third-party cookies were so convenient that they spawned a sort of ‘lazy advertising’ era. Being able to reach vaguely the people one wanted with minimal effort really allowed marketers to slide by with minimal thought behind their advertising strategy. It also allowed them to distance themselves from data generation because why would you generate your own when there were orders of magnitude more data points from other companies at your fingertips? This distance has led to a much larger gap between marketing teams and data teams than I would expect considering how closely the two teams should be working. It is common (in my experience) to have a marketing team with little or even no data collection experience, believing it is unnecessary due to the mass availability of data. The worst part is, in many cases they are right. Now, with 3rd party cookies being phased out they are scrambling to learn the ins and outs of data collection before it is too late. Though it may be painful, I actually see the bridging of this gap as a net positive for both marketing and the companies that marketers work for as they become more literate on the ins and outs of data generation.
Even with these silver linings digital will take a hit from this. Programmatic and ABM spend will likely be less effective and other digital advertising will probably cost more as companies consolidate onto platforms less reliant on 3rd party cookies. Data generation for many companies will struggle in the short term as they try to catch up to the new standards arising from the lack of third-party cookies. Though these things will hurt in the short term, I like to think of 3rd party cookies as a crutch that was removed. Yes, it’s hard to walk now but this forces marketers to focus on fundamentals, and in the long term everyone will be stronger for it.