Gavin Lockhart: Death of third-party cookies might be delayed, but brands should act now

Australian businesses cannot be complacent, argues TRKKN’s Lockhart, and instead need to get on the front foot.

By Gavin Lockhart, managing director at TRKKN

Third-party cookies have been a cornerstone of the web for decades, underpinning online personalisation and helping marketers deliver and measure relevant and engaging advertising at scale.

With the recent update from Google to postpone the deprecation of third party cookies again, we’ve seen a flood of comedic responses and some frustration from marketers and technologists alike. There are many reasons for Google’s decision to delay, but the most prominent seems to be the concerns of regulators in the UK, the readiness of the industry, and Google’s Privacy Sandbox needing more work.

When the Google Chrome browser stops supporting third-party cookies in 2025, the online industry is set to change forever. The extended deadline gives marketers, developers, and publishers much needed time to prepare for the future of the internet, with less dependency on third party cookies.

The shift has already begun and will continue, with Google rolling out Privacy Sandbox Tracking Protection to 1% of Chrome users globally in January, a key milestone in its push to phase out third party cookies.

Following in the footsteps of Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox, Google’s changes to Chrome will be the final nail in the coffin for third-party tracking cookies. Marketers who aren’t prepared risk flying blind.

Although Google’s deadline has been delayed, the awareness and concern amongst the marketing community to take action is disturbingly low, according to an Adobe study which found marketers are still highly reliant on third-party cookies. Someone isn’t going to swoop in and solve the problem for them at the last minute.

Some people perhaps assume that giants like Google and Meta will step in with a solution, so everyone can continue business as usual. Others might see it as simply a tech challenge for their ad vendor or IT team, without appreciating that it is a business issue rather than just a technical issue.

Becoming a privacy-focused, data-driven organisation touches every aspect of the business, meaning it must be addressed at the highest levels rather than handled in a piecemeal way. This is why a growing number of organisations are appointing a chief privacy officer to coordinate their efforts.

So rather than go right down to the line and scramble to implement half-baked workarounds which will only get blocked, Australian organisations need to get on the front foot. They need to change the narrative and drive the change themselves, taking a proactive approach to becoming privacy-focussed.

For example, it’s possible some brands might have consent to use first-party data for campaign measurement but not for targeting. This would mean they could pass a customer’s data into a platform to measure the outcome of a campaign, but not use that data to actively target that customer.

This shows the necessity of businesses driving a first-party data strategy, and focusing on advanced personalisation and customer experience, while keeping privacy at the forefront.

It’s a winning strategy: businesses which leverage personalisation generate 40% more revenue than those which don’t, according to McKinsey. Personalisation can also reduce customer acquisition cost by up to 50%, while increasing marketing spend efficiency by up to 30%.

For marketers to thrive in a cookieless future, it’s not just about adapting to the technical challenges of Google deprecating third-party cookies. It is about being part of a data-driven, privacy-first business that delivers experiences which keep customers coming back.

Top image: Lockhart

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