The cookie apocalypse is coming...and nobody is talking about it. What is your brands plan?

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

From 2022 (yes, only two years away) third party cookies will no longer be allowed in Google's Chrome browser which could render up to 85% of current digital marketing useless. Tracking codes have already been blocked in Apple's browser Safari and Mozilla's Firefox.

Anything seen as third-party (measurement, analytics, re-targeting, site optimsations and more) will be affected. This major shift moving away from collecting cookies to a more authenticated identification model will require planning for many organisations who are not aware of these changes. Organisations will need to look to create incentives to encourage users to login meaning a potential shift in priority to loyalty and retention programs. That being said cookies are not dead, they will just need to be server-side.


This move away from behavioural targeting (the life blood of many media buying campaigns and re-targeting via Data Management Platforms) to contextual and authenticated targeting could mean a rethink of not only website experiences but also digital marketing spend. This issue is not being widely talked about for a number of reasons, one, organisations are in survival mode with the current COVID-19 requiring a pivot of strategy but now is not the time to overlook this and it should be part of the current roadmap. Two, lack of education and clarity on what it all means therefore low urgency, this is a pretty technical space. Not many people know enough about this to offer up solutions and those who are are being drown out by COVID-19 noise. Three, in the COVID-19 reaction a lot of organisation are reducing marketing budget so may be blissfully unaware of how this will impact them and they have stood down a lot of internal digital and agency talent in this space who could advise.

The good news is as ecommerce is a growth space at the moment due to the increase in online demand through social distancing authentication and log in is already strategically available meaning these websites can indeed continue to improve user experience and conversion through tracking and re-marketing potentially unhindered by these changes. A consideration for all "login" experiences however is social sign on could be treated as third party code and needs to be addressed as to whether this validates true authentic identity under these new rules.

Other organisations will need to look to stronger content strategies to entice users to revisit within the new 7 day 1st party cookie window and then encourage and create an incentive for users to login to help authenticate them. Although segmentation and personalisation will be affected the organisations looking to strong experiences through content and customer journeys based on life events that address challenges around the customer need at a point in time will do well going forward. If your brand can create a trusted place with relevant content that will entice users to come back and potentially authenticate if there is value in doing so.

Although it is not a silver bullet solution it is worth considering the part a Customer Data Platform could play in creating 1 on 1 targeting and personalisation while assisting in moving towards a single customer view.

This update does not seem to affect mobile advertising and mobile ad identifiers (MAIDs) so  marketers can reach users based on the data sent by their mobile device.

What can you do? Time for a action plan not panic

  • Look to build a roadmap, make your organisation aware of the current budgets and what this update means and what is the proposed plan, get stakeholder buy-in (you will loose customers to better prepared competitors)

  • This feeds into privacy so consult with legal and governance departments

  • Review technology and skills gaps. Although not a silver bullet consider Customer Data Platform and look to potentially re-budget to onboard a solution such as Tealium

  • Invest in data science, BI and statistically evidence to guide the strategy. Evolve the way you measure success and make strategic data based decisions.

  • Create collaborative teams across Marketing, Comms, PR, Digital, Data. Share learnings and do not create heroes, move forward as a cross functional team. Break down existing silos, these teams need to move together as a unit.

  • Upskill in house teams, do not be overly reliant on external agencies to find the solution

  • Create in house experts around tagging solutions and cookies through education, use resources such as https://www.cookiestatus.com/

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