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Insider | Tunnl

The Death of Third-Party Cookies & The Future of Advertising

November 8th, 2021 | 8 min. read

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Freshly baked cookies are a staple in many American households.

They are also a staple in digital advertising.

The marketing and advertising world went into a frenzy when Google announced the “death of the third party cookie” in March of 2021. This major announcement led to mass confusion.

Advertisers wondered how this would impact their advertising efforts. Marketers wondered how this change would affect their websites. Data companies and providers wondered how this would affect their data collection efforts, and the public at large was left wondering what it meant for them.

In this article, we will go over:

  • The types of cookies - their purposes and use cases 
  • What is the Current State of Play Regarding Cookies
  • How Advertisers and Marketers Can Move Forward in a (third-party) Cookie-less World


What is the Difference Between First-Party and Third-Party Cookies?

Cookies have come a long way since they were first put to use in the early 1990s. In modern times, cookies have suffered mass criticism for their information tracking capabilities. 

There are two main types of cookies that you will hear the most about:

  • First-party cookies

  • Third-party cookies


What are first-party cookies?

First-party cookies are stored by the domain (website) you are visiting directly. They allow website owners to collect analytics data, remember language settings, and perform other useful functions that help provide a good user experience.

How are first-party cookies created?

First-party cookies are created by the host domain – the domain the user is visiting. These types of cookies are generally considered good; they help provide a better user experience and keep the session open.

How are first-party cookies used?

First-party cookies allow the browser to remember key pieces of information, such as which items you add to shopping carts, your username and passwords, and language preferences.

What are third-party cookies?

Third-party cookies are cookies that are set by a website other than the one you are currently on. 

How are third-party cookies created?

Third-party cookies are created by domains that are NOT the website that you are visiting. A third-party cookie is accessible on any website that loads the third-party server’s code.

How are third-party cookies used? 

Online advertising is the most common use of third-party cookies. By adding their tags to a page, which may or may not display ads, advertisers can track a user (or their device) across many of the websites they visit.

For example, when you visit a blog, the website will create a first-party cookie that is saved to that website. Since this is a blog, like many other publisher websites, there are ads developed by other websites that create a third-party cookie and save it to your computer.


What's Going on with Third-Party Cookies?

Currently, there are a few big web browsers that automatically block third-party cookies:

  • Firefox - the first major browser to announce it would block all third-party cookies by default (September 2019)
  • Safari - the second major browser to block all third-party cookies by default (March 2020)
  • Brave - a new-to-the-game privacy-focused browser, launched in November 2019

As you look at this list, you likely notice there is a major web browser missing.

That’s right, currently, the most popular web browser in the United States, Google Chrome, does not automatically block third-party cookies.

So when Google announced in 2021 that third-party cookies are over for Google Chrome (the internet browser of choice for 61% of US households) and its ad networks starting in 2023, some of the marketing world started to panic.

While this announcement was predictable, it still sent ripples through the marketing and advertising world.


Google’s third-party cookie announcement; why now?

Google’s privacy announcement comes in the wake of a more privacy-conscious public and in the aftermath of increasingly aggressive privacy legislation such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) - with many other states following suit.

Google also is playing catch-up with its competitors, Safari and Firefox, who made sweeping privacy changes years ago.

Google’s third-party cookies are on a gazillion websites, they collect info about you which powers Google’s massive ad technology, but that ends in 2023 according to their announcement.

Google will still deliver ads to millions of people every day, but just in a more anonymized way. 


Google ending third-party cookies is not bad for Google - it’s a blow to advertisers and marketers who have historically relied on that technology.


As Recode pointed out last year, Google will still collect your first-party data — that is, what you do when you’re using its products, like YouTube and Search — and it will target ads to you based on it. That first-party data becomes even more valuable to advertisers as third-party data sources dry up.

This is great for Google, whose platforms get billions of hits per day. In fact, the bulk of Google’s revenue comes from ads on Google Search — more than half of it, according to its most recent quarterly earnings report, and far more than it makes from its ad network that currently relies on third-party cookies.


Cookies are Crumbling; What Does that Mean for Advertisers?

In the world of marketing and advertising, there are two groups that are affected by this third-party cookie change:

  1. Those who sell products and services
  2. Those who sell ideas and values

This second group, more commonly referred to as purpose-driven marketing, is more severely affected by this third-party cookie change. 


It comes down to one simple fact: it is harder to understand how a consumer feels about certain issues and then what it’s going to take to motivate them to take action than it is to identify someone who might buy a product.

Purpose-driven marketing requires a lot more data that many companies are not prepared to handle post-2023, when the third-party cookie changes happen, or even now.

So, what happens next?


The Future of Purpose-Driven Marketing

The death of third-party cookies dealt a special challenge to those in purpose-driven advertising.

Purpose-driven advertising relies on understanding an individual’s sentiment about a topic, or personal beliefs, in an attempt to connect with them or mobilize them to take a specific action.

Many advertisers relied on third-party data to understand how specific populations feel because they do not have the resources, capability, or reach to gather the necessary data themselves.

The future of purpose-driven advertising will be won by those who can anticipate and adapt to these constant privacy changes - which means the future of purpose-driven advertising is currently being won by companies who are non-reliant on third-party cookies.


How can I get ahead of third-party cookie changes as a purpose-driven marketer?

Moving forward, as of now, the brands and the ad-tech industry have two options:

  1. Develop ad models that rely on their own first-party data
  2. Create a new form of identity-based tracking that would bear some similarities to cookies
  3. Seek and partner with vendors who do not rely on third-party cookies and can disseminate data in a privacy-compliant way

The cookie changes take effect in 2023 but if brands and advertisers wait until then to find an alternate solution, they will run the risk of getting left behind.


New solutions take time to develop and implement, brands simply do not have enough time to wait.


Option 1: Develop ad models that rely on their own first-party data

This is likely the first reaction/thought of companies and brands that currently rely upon third-party cookies to gather data.

For some, this is the best route for them to take. However, this option is a non-viable solution for those companies and brands that are not able to efficiently gather this information on their own.


Option 2: Create a new form of identity-based tracking that would bear some similarities to cookies

This is a great solution - however, it is not very practical.

First of all, something like this would require a long development time. Secondly, this is not feasible for companies and brands to easily implement.


Option 3: Seek and partner with vendors who do not rely on third-party cookies and can disseminate data in a privacy-compliant way

This is a great solution for those in purpose-driven marketing who need to adapt to the cookie changes and need help gathering first-party data without investing time and resources to build the infrastructure internally.

Companies like Tunnl gather information on an individual’s sentiment on certain topics.

For brands interested in this option, here are three questions to ask potential data partners:

  1. Do you have data on this niche issue?
  2. How can I activate this information?
  3. Are you privacy compliant?

Tunnl as a solution to the third-party cookie changes:

New call-to-actionAt Tunnl, we don't rely on third-party cookies to build our audiences. Where we have relied on cookies in the past is to match offline data to connected devices, with popular browsers and third-party plug-ins already blocking third-party cookies, we're already ready for ad targeting post-cookies

We partner with data on-boarders who use all of the tools at their disposal to bring offline data online, which can include cookies, but also includes RampID, UID 2.0, IP addresses, and MAIDs.

Data is only as good as your ability to act on it - we have many existing partnerships that allow our clients to activate their data almost anywhere across...

  • Social Media
  • Demand Side Platforms (DSPs)
  • Managed Service Providers (MSPs)
  • Addressable TV and VOD
  • Digital and Terrestrial Radio
  • P2P Texting

Tunnl and Data Privacy

At Tunnl, maintaining privacy and data security are at the core of everything we do. Our Privacy Policy details:

New call-to-action
  • The information we collect
  • How we use information we receive
  • How we share information
  • How we protect information.

We also maintain full California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) compliance.

To see how Tunnl fits your needs...

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