skip to main content

Breaking Down the Cookie Apocalypse

  • Allison Smith

    Allison Smith

    Senior Partnerships Manager

Created at May 12th, 2021

Breaking Down the Cookie Apocalypse

More and more experts in the industry are referring to the “cookie apocalypse, ” calling this looming event the end of digital advertising as we know it. It’s important to understand that the death of third-party cookies is not the end of the digital marketing world, but rather the beginning of a new phase. Change is inevitable for brands, publishers, and platforms as the fallout from this change becomes clearer. 

The fallout we are talking about are the industry-wide rolling changes to remove third-party cookies and mobile ad identifiers from browsers and mobile devices. Third-party cookies are created by domains other than the one you are visiting directly, hence the name “third-party.” These cookies are used for cross-site tracking, retargeting and ad serving. They also enable real-time media optimizations and measurement, which are key to successful digital advertising. With browsers and mobile providers removing support for third-party cookies, we must ask ourselves, “What does this mean for ad industry players?”

Many brands will be significantly impacted by this change, as they have depended on third-party cookies to follow site visitors across the web for retargeting and attribution purposes. Now, they will depend on the quality of their first-party data to prove value in digital media, including first-party cookies. While brands should be asking, “How do we get people to opt in?” they more importantly should be asking, “How do we provide value back to our customers?” Creating a value exchange to encourage self-identifying on the internet will be key in growing their customers’ lifetime value. 

On the platform side, those with logged-in capabilities and user consent will have an advantage over those that rely on third-party cookies for identification, a tactic we will start to see across other ad tech players. A great example would be Facebook, which builds its network using self-provided information. That’s not to say that these platforms don’t have their fair share of challenges. All ad platforms will need to re-evaluate how they serve ads and measure performance with limited signals and data. 

Publishers are also faced with redefining how they identify users. There will naturally be an increase in publishers’ direct relationships with identity graph solutions, such as the Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0, to serve ads to real people. In fact, my company, Acxiom, is working with all major publishers and platforms to collaborate on identity solutions and future-proofing products to minimize the impact of these changes.

So, who can we rely on to build the bridge to this new world? Acxiom has more than 50 years of experience and is well positioned to serve as a guide to all advertisers in a cookie-less world with data built on consumer-level data. As brands start to think about how this impacts their business, they should be addressing how they can adapt their marketing strategies to include verified first-party and people-based data. Acxiom is here to ensure the cookie apocalypse doesn’t become the end of the marketing world.