Third-party cookies, simplified.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the death of third-party cookies.

Below, we’ve answered a few questions to help you understand what’s happening, in ordinary terms:

1 — What are third party cookies?

Third-party cookies are those owned by sites external to your own. E.g. if you run ads on Facebook, chances are you have a FB pixel on your site (and thus third party tracking).

These cookies, in the simplest sense, are used to track the browsing habits of users. This then allows for highly targeted prospecting, as well as retargeting by tracking a user’s actions on your site.

2 — What is happening to third party cookies?

Although Safari & Firefox have long since disabled third party cookies from their browsers, the fact they hold a minority market share has so far not impacted advertisers too much.

The big blow now comes from Google choosing to disable third party cookies in Chrome by 2022. Google Chrome holds a 64% browser share, in comparison to Safari’s 19% and Firefox’s 4%. Hence all the chatter.

3 — What does this mean (in theory)?

In theory, this may affect both your ability to retarget users on specific platforms and the effectiveness of prospecting; the latter due to platforms potentially having less data about their users.

4 — Are we worried?


As is usually the way, the industry will find ways to adapt. In this case, the noise is centred around utilising first-party data (this is the user data that websites own directly). This would mean platforms needing to find ways to gather as much detailed information about their users on their own site, to make up for the loss of 3rd party data.

A great example is that of The New York Times, which starting experimenting with their own 1st party data for its direct-sold ads business (that is, ads that are bought directly from the publisher, rather than programmatically). Crucially, it found that campaigns that were targeted on 1st party data performed equally well as those targeting 3rd party data.

And from a retargeting perspective? Well, there are a number of ways brands can adapt, from ensuring your analytics is set up to track & build audiences, to utilising your CRM and business analysis platform data.

5 — Conclusion

The future post-2022 is simple: both publishers and advertisers will need to own their user data. Will marketing as we know it end? Probably not. Like most things, grave speculation about certain changes usually pass by with barely any notice.