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End of the third-party cookies: how to navigate through the cookieless era

Posted by:Antoine Forêt

Media Director

Posted by:Philippe Lohmann

Senior Strategist

As we are (finally) entering the age of cookieless, many digital communication players are wondering if this change, announced as major, could be much more than the threat everyone’s afraid of, but THE opportunity for advertisers and agencies to reengage the talk with their consumers, human to human, without any tool in-between

And here we are! The end of cookies, this new era everyone’s been predicting for many years now, seems closer and more real than ever and with it comes the perspective of new and exciting projects! 

After the year 2023, where we talked a lot about the future, prospects, and revolutions and in which questions about AI came up again and again to the point of sometimes bordering on indigestion like a day after Christmas, a new reason to worry was the burning topic of the people with whom we exchanged views: What were we going to do in 2024 in this Cookieless time? And rightly so, because without cookies, goodbye (or should we say see you later?) to precise measure, reach calculations, tracking of attribution and the contribution of each lever through the customer journey, goodbye precise targeting and above all goodbye retargeting!

Cookieless: this is a revolution (?)

In reality, the end of cookies (promised by Google for later this year) would not create a storm in a teacup (even with milk!). Because after all, if we take a look back, Safari and Firefox already put an end to it as early as 2019. The European Union has played its part with the GDPR and soon new measures to fight against the consumer cookie fatigue. And 2023 only reinforced Meta, Netflix and the others walled gardens / logged universe within which a lot of data can still be exploited (except for people who subscribed to even more (expensive) subscriptions in order to avoid advertising).

Even though Google has already failed several times to replace cookies (Flocs being the most obvious example), the giant behind Chrome wants to be reassuring: 70 % of current traffic is already carried out without third party cookies, and the actual tests will firstly be done on 1 % of the global traffic before its “Privacy Sandbox” initiative will slowly delete third party cookies during the second half of 2024. 

It may still be some time before the famous «Hi there! It’s us, the cookies!» banner disappears.

The end of third-party cookies: back to the basics

Without minimizing this upcoming change, it is advisable to see its evolution and to always test and learn new solutions, to avoid ending up one day without those famous third-party cookies and wondering «And now what? What do we do now?”

Begin by taking a deep breath, and look at what we have left, as an agency and advertiser, once we've removed this tool we'd begun to depend on. First, the end of cookies does not mean the end of data. Announcers sometimes have unexploited gold mines in their own database. We will finally be able to come back to the basics, to the base of our jobs: analyzing data and using it to understand the human behind the purchasing act.

The mass of analyzable data is still an amazing playground for all the players, even without third party cookies. A part of the third data will always exists, as will retail media, and walled gardens. Then there will be solutions like Utiq which will be developed (An AdTech born from an initiative of different European telecom operator like Orange, which aims to give back control of consent to each Internet user), proving that data sharing will be even more important in the future. Likewise, in Google’s “Privacy Sandbox”, the idea of Topics API aims to continue to reach Internet users according to their affinities while allowing them to only choose a limited number of areas of interests and for a short period of time. Obviously, all those new tools will only work if they are adopted by as many people as possible (which gives a head start to Topics API against others like Utiq) but the solutions are here within reach, and then the end of cookies does not mean the end of online advertising, but a new age of advertisement more virtuous and respectful of the internaut.

Learning to talk again

This dive back into data and better analyze will bring us many insights on the target and will allow us to address another issue existing since many years: adblockers. Because their rising has a real reason and must be considered. Because of limitless repeated messages and without any possibility to manage their frequency, because the ads get more and more intrusive and almost impossible to skip. Advertising has brought its own fall and if everyone gets disenchantment with "ads", it is simply the result of too much exposure, at any time, any where, to messages that don't fit with their needs.

We should never underestimate the power of a good creation, a copy that touches its audience in the heart, a well-detected need, or an insight exploited with a relevant answer.
Philippe Lohmann - Senior Strategist

Once again, new solutions are coming up. In terms of contextual and semantic targeting (for this, we can say “thank you AI”), that we will need to test. Also “thank you AI” for allowing us to build better data model and develop new probabilistic scenarios to compensate the cookie-loss. But even without talking about innovations, we should never underestimate the power of a good creation, a copy that touches its audience in the heart, a well-detected need, or an insight exploited with a relevant answer. After all, how were we doing before cookies, or even before digital? Anyone who has worked in media before the digital era will tell you: we could measure, target, but before anything else we were looking to deliver “the right message to the right person at the right place” (whatever hackneyed this expression has become) 

So here we are! The end of cookies, at last, and many new projects to come. But as many and challenging they may be, the guideline is clear: back to basics, common sense, and independence, while remembering that a tool, no matter how “meta”, no matter how intelligent or how much parts of our habits it might be, is only a tool. And that, at the end of the tool, there is and always will be a human being!