If you’re using third-party cookies to stay in front of potential customers as part of your advertising or marketing campaigns, 2024 is the year the playing space is going to change.

Google began blocking third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome users around the world in January. By Q3 this year, they will block these cookies for all Chrome users. Before you shrug and move on, remember that Chrome is the browser of choice for more than 64% of global users followed by Safari with nearly 19%. In the US alone, Chrome and Safari together have over 80% of the market. (Safari has been blocking third-party cookies since 2013.) So what does this mean? Settle in as we dive into how this impacts your digital campaigns.

Cookie 101

A digital cookie is a tiny bit of code or a “file” added to your computer when you visit a website. When you visit the Sabal Group website, our cookie is added to your computer. That’s called a first-party cookie. But that’s the only cookie you’ll get. You won’t pick-up any third-party cookies from our website. We don’t allow them. But most websites do. And those cookies track your movements across the Web. 

Let’s say you visited an online jewelry store to window shop. That website adds their cookies to your browser. The next morning, you play Wordle and notice the big ad at the top of the page. It’s four pieces of jewelry that you looked at yesterday. Those are third-party cookies that The NYT permits on the game’s page. Why are these third-party cookies important? Because as you move across the internet, these cookies gather information about you for their owner. And in turn, that owner can sell that information to data brokers. Next stop, data brokers repackage and resell that data in the form of lists. And smart marketing teams use that data to target the ideal customer who matches their best customer profiles. But change is coming.

A Cookieless World

In a marketing ecosystem without third-party cookies, there will be direct and indirect consequences.

1. Don’t panic. Google has been preparing for this rollout for years. To help developers, marketers and anyone else concerned about this, they’ve created the Privacy Sandbox. This is a Google initiative to protect your privacy and to give companies tools to continue to target their ads. The website has multiple pages and articles devoted to cookies if you want to go down that rabbit hole. Tl:dr version: you still have good options.

2. The new buzzword is contextual targeting. Focus on creating high-intent contextual ad campaigns in lieu of programmatic campaigns. You’ll be targeting a smaller audience, but one that has a higher level of interest in your message. That should lead to higher clicks and conversions.

3. Remember: pixels! These tiny snippets of code send information directly to a web server, unlike a cookie. Pixels can be designed to track users and their behavior, serve ads in a retargeting campaign or determine who’s clicking on your ad to measure conversions. 

4. You need to dig into your metrics to understand attribution in this brave new world. Google has become more opaque in reporting attribution metrics. Data from Chrome users will be anonymized when it’s reported. 

5. It’s time to get serious about Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE). 

Change is hard and old habits etc. etc. etc. But the bottom line is that your marketing campaigns will need to adapt. There are many ways to identify and target the right audience beyond digital search and display ads. We’d love to chat with you about these tools and how we can help you reach your ideal audience.