The impending death of the third-party cookie is already raising widespread concerns. Industry leaders have speculated what it means for the future of advertising while technology companies must adapt to new products and solutions.
The advertising ecosystem relies on the consumer, the publisher and the marketer. While all must adapt to the changing environment, the marketer is a key investor and faced with both choice and challenge.
To explore the marketer’s mindset relative to third-party cookie deprecation, Epsilon commissioned a third-party research study with Phronesis Partners Inc. Survey respondents included more than 250 U.S. marketers who are key decision-makers or influencers for digital advertising for midsize to large companies in industries such as retail, financial services, CPG, restaurant and travel. The objective was to learn about marketers’ perceptions, readiness and steps they were taking to address changes in the digital advertising ecosystem. Here’s what we found:
1. Most marketers are very or moderately reliant on third-party cookies.
Third-party cookie technology is deeply embedded in the ecosystem. It was easy to adopt and afforded both publishers and advertisers richer identification of users, driving reliance. Our survey findings reveal that about 80% of marketers are either very (39%) or moderately (41%) reliant on third-party cookies.
These results indicate that marketers will need to significantly evolve their advertising strategies by evaluating solutions that follow a privacy-first principle and are people-based with stable offline identifiers. If you’re a marketer who has relied on third-party cookies, take comfort in knowing you’re in the same boat as most of your peers.
2. Less than half of marketers feel “very prepared” for the change.
Everyone has an opinion when it comes to the major ways the death of third-party cookies will impact advertisers. For example:
- Reach: Advertisers will need to find a new way to reach their customers and prospects online.
- Personalization: Behavioral and browsing data will be limited for advertisers that depend on third-party cookies to personalize ads.
- Campaign optimization: Basic capabilities such as A/B testing and frequency capping will be challenging for advertisers that depend on third-party cookies.
- Performance measurement: Analytics and attribution based on third-party cookies will be much less effective.
Our research suggests that a combined 80% of marketers are concerned about the impact third-party cookie deprecation will have on personalization or performance efficiency/ROI. Overall, 67% of marketers feel a combination of disappointed, frustrated, overwhelmed, helpless and even confused.
But despite the impact and concern, fewer than half of marketers surveyed (46%) say they are “very prepared” for the change. They do, however, anticipate moderate to significant impact on their digital advertising efforts (83%), and 69% even go so far as to say they believe this change will have a greater impact than the CCPA or GDPR.
Marketers have begun to take some steps toward preparing, such as building a customer data platform (67%) and strategizing around first-party data (62%).
3. Actual benefits to consumers are in question.
The purported driving force behind these changes was to protect consumer privacy, yet 62% of marketers believe third-party cookie deprecation will not help consumers. Nearly two-thirds (63%) believe the changes will result in little to no improvement to consumers’ control of personal data. And most think consumers will receive a less personalized ad experience (55%) while privacy concerns will persist (50%).
4. 70% of marketers believe digital advertising will take a step backward.
Our survey found that only 20% of marketers are “very confident” that their vendors will come up with viable solutions to address the change, and 40% are “not very confident” or “not confident at all.”
That’s likely why 70% of marketers believe digital advertising will take a step backward as a result of these changes—specifically in terms of personalizing ads and proving marketing effectiveness.
So how can marketers move forward?
You need the right partner that knows that a future-proof advertising approach requires a strong foundation of identity rooted in people, not reliant on transient or perishable identifiers—and one that connects brands’ data with first-party data from publishers. You’ll also need a plan that safeguards against the loss of identifiers—one that prioritizes your relationships with consumers and ensures their privacy without sacrificing their experience.
To further prepare for this industry change, download our Marketer Playbook: How to succeed without third-party cookies. In addition to deeper education, it includes guidance your brand needs to ensure you are prepared to personalize and drive performance across the open web, even without third-party cookies.