Marilyn Fancher

Brands that use digital display or sponsored advertising online are indeed “losing their cookies” as Google continues phasing out technical support for third-party cookies. Browsers such as Safari and Firefox have already implemented a default opt-out setting for users, and Google’s Chrome (which maintains 60% of the browser market) began eliminating support in January 2024. The good news is that there are several other options to better understand and reach key audiences.

What are cookies – and how do they work?

Cookies are small text files created by websites you visit and stored on your computer. There are two varieties:

  • First-party cookies are created by websites you directly visit, which can track anonymous behavioral information on visitors, keep you signed in, remember your preferences, and provide useful content.
  • Third-party cookies are created by websites other than the one you are currently visiting. For example, if you visit a clothing website, you may start seeing ads and links to that same site (including specific products you looked at) on other websites you visit.

Third-party cookies have come under fire in recent years because they can be used to track users across the internet without their knowledge or consent, impacting privacy and data security. Legislation, along with rising public concerns about privacy, have led to their demise.

What does this mean for advertisers?

There are a range of new and traditional methods to reach important audiences and navigate the upcoming post-cookie era.

  1. Leverage first-party data. Even though third-party cookies may be going away, first-party cookies are here to stay. An important source of user data will shift to digital identity — datasets about visitors such as email addresses, IP/device identifiers, and login-based information. First-party data sources also include surveys and subscriptions.
  2. Research public data. Publicly available information can include census data, search trends, and social channel data.
  3. Use contextual advertising. Contextual ads are placed near specific content on websites. For example, if a user is looking at an article about innovation in cancer treatments, health care organizations can place advertising on that page without impacting user privacy. This is a great way to create and build relationships with audiences who are already interested in your content.
  4. Embrace artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Newer technologies can play a pivotal role in paid media strategies, with the capacity to analyze vast amounts of data, understand user behavior, and predict preferences.

By developing new paid media strategies, brands can not only adapt but thrive in a changing digital marketing environment. Building authentic connections with audiences is at the heart of these strategies, ensuring that companies continue to engage and resonate with their target demographic in a privacy-conscious environment.