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26 March 2020 / Opinion

How to adapt to the loss of 3rd party cookies

James Holding / Online Performance Strategy Director

In the past year alone, three of the biggest web browsers on the internet – Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome – have taken steps to remove as default or phase out the use of third-party cookies. But what’s the impact and how can brands adapt to continue to provide customers with a personalised experience and attribute spend accurately?

What are third-party cookies?

Third-party cookies can be used to build up a picture of an individual’s browsing history, interests, preferences, and habits. This has formed the backbone of the digital marketing and advertising industry, enabling things like retargeting, programmatic advertising, data-driven attribution, personalisation and much more.

Third party cookies are viewed negatively by many consumers and privacy advocates alike. The use of these cookies allows some large companies to build up profiles of individuals who are browsing the web – who may be unaware that this is happening. If several websites all contain an advertising partners tracking code, they will be able to build up a profile of this user across the web (or all websites where their tracking code is located).

Impact of the Chrome third party cookies phase-out

Google, who owns the majority market share of web browsing (around 60%) is reacting to changes in public opinion and legal requirements.  Google would like to strike a balance between the data available for advertising purposes and what users feel comfortable sharing. A key part of this, is making the data available without identifying individuals, Google are keen to keep an acceptable level of anonymous tracking available.

The “privacy sandbox project has been set-up to explore new techniques that the public and regulators will find acceptable, Google are committed to working toward a solution for advertisers, publishers, and users alike. These solutions will likely aim to provide a level of anonymity while servicing the advertising industry.

Companies that only offer services relying on third party cookies will need to adapt to upcoming changes, and any programmatic platforms will have to adjust their offering, due to a reduced level of available user data.

The return of test and learn techniques

In an interesting turn of events, older marketing test and learn techniques may be on the return, in particular to judge the performance of display marketing. Many marketers became so fixated on the last click that the reliance on older methods may prove beneficial to the marketing industry and clients, reflecting a truer value of how these mediums perform.

Attribution is spoken about as a recent development in digital marketing, yet it has existed for a long time. In many ways the methodology was more sophisticated long before digital came along providing everyone with an easy to obtain and use "last click" model.

The removal of data does not change the fact that upper funnel advertising is still effective and has a place, thus marketers wanting to give it credit. Reviewing measurement approaches and adapting to the changing landscape will be key to advertising success.

A positive step forward

It’s a positive step forward for consumer privacy, and at Jaywing we continually evolve and adapt our approach to meet the needs of consumers and businesses alike. The removal of data sources will not stop data-driven attribution techniques, but rather change how they are done, with a move to holdouts, test and learn, control groups, incentivised or purchased data.


  1. Review your suppliers: There will be a limited number who can join all the data together, apply sophisticated modelling techniques and use data scientists to analyse the results. It’s this unique combination of people, technology and data that will pave the way forward.
  2. Don’t worry, there’s time to adapt: Keep in mind that cookies are a 20-plus year-old technology and we’re already finding ways to move on. It’s going to be all about exploring new technologies, innovation, and striking a balance between profit and privacy choices. Taking advantage of first-party data that you get when people intentionally engage with your brand is the first step toward accomplishing this. 
  3. Constantly evolve your strategy: There has always been a need to constantly evolve your marketing strategy, but now more than ever this is crucial. Just when you think you’re getting the hang of things, you realise that you may be lagging behind. 

Jaywing brings together contrasting yet complementary skills in data intelligence, creative engagement and channel performance together with new technologies to uncover unique insights and enable smarter outcomes. To meet the many different challenges we tackle head on, our diverse specialisms and wider perspectives come together in an environment without divisions.