How Agencies Can Prepare for Third-Party Cookie Deprecation

Most companies aren’t ready for a cookieless future. This includes marketing agencies. Google already started disabling 1% of cookies on January 4, 2024, and plans to phase all third-party cookies in 2025. Even with the delay, it’s time to prepare.

If, like many organizations, you still use cookies in the majority of your programmatic ad buying process, you’ll be left scrambling if you don’t have solutions and alternatives in place when the full impact of cookie deprecation hits. This will affect your ability to effectively manage your clients’ media — especially since finding valuable audiences will be far more challenging.

Here are some key places to start preparing for cookie deprecation.

Play in the Sandbox

Start testing out APIs in Google’s Privacy Sandbox like the Attribution Reporting API, the Google Campaign Manager Offline Conversions API, Google Topics and the Protected Audience API.

Thus far, industry organizations testing the Privacy Sandbox have brought up critical concerns about its functionality, including IAB Tech Lab and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). What’s important to note is that this information has been shared with Google. We also must remember that the Sandbox is not supposed to be an apples-to-apples replacement for third-party cookies.

Now is the time to test. Other brands, ad tech companies and agencies have been doing so since early January. Become familiar with each API, test it out and come away with your own conclusions about how it works with your client campaigns.

Try Other Conversion APIs (CAPIs)

Another way to get your feet wet is to test other CAPIs besides Google’s including those offered by Meta, TikTok, Snapchat, Pinterest and The Trade Desk. Server-to-server conversion tracking is going to help with a lot of the measurement issues we have without third-party cookies.

Explore Identity Solutions

“In a post-cookie world, identity solutions will serve as the backbone of any cookieless strategy you may have,” said Alex Bloore, the vice president of product and data at Goodway Group. Connect with different identity providers like TransUnion, LiveRamp, Infosum and The Trade Desk and then test solutions such as The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0 (UID2).

Try out the different options available to see what will work with your clients. Note that you may need more than one solution — no one tool or solution will replace a third-party cookie.

Get Serious About First-Party Data

When third-party cookies go away, first-party data will be the most important. Ensure your clients have their own first-party data or help them start collecting first-party data if they don’t.

Work with identity providers like the ones listed above to help clients build their first-party datasets and lookalike audiences. Consider using solutions such as Goodway’s Passport One, which helps with first-party data enrichment, building and augmentation. Make sure you have access to this data as well — and can both read and use it.

Lean Into Data Collaboration Tools

Explore data collaboration tools like data clean rooms to securely share and analyze data. If you’re just getting started with data clean rooms, try using walled garden clean rooms first through platforms your clients are already advertising on. Examples include Meta Advanced Analytics, Google Ads Data Hub and Amazon Ads.

Use Contextual Targeting

With third-party cookies going away, contextual targeting is back in vogue. This is one of the seven cookieless solutions we recommend that companies use.

Start incorporating contextual targeting technology back in your marketing since it is privacy-safe and doesn’t rely on cookies.

Make Sure Your Media Partner(s) Are Ready

Outsourcing any of your marketing efforts? Partnering with other agencies for programmatic media execution or influencer marketing? Ask about their readiness for cookie deprecation.

What are they testing now? What cookie alternatives do they have in place? How will they help you continue to deliver results to your clients, continue to target audiences and ride the cookieless wave smoothly?

You Don’t Have To Go At It Alone

If this all sounds overwhelming, remember that you’re not the only agency in the same boat. Many of your clients likely aren’t ready either. Don’t be afraid to look for a partner, such as an identity provider or a digital media execution and analytics company, to help you successfully navigate a post-cookie world.

Embrace the Cookieless Future Strategically

The deprecation of third-party cookies demands a strategic approach from marketing agencies to maintain effective media management and audience targeting for clients. Agencies must explore and implement a combination of solutions, including testing tools like Google’s Privacy Sandbox APIs, various platform CAPIs and identity solutions from providers like TransUnion and LiveRamp.

Prioritizing first-party data collection, leveraging data clean rooms and revisiting contextual targeting will also be crucial. By embracing a comprehensive strategy utilizing the right solutions and strategic partnerships, agencies can navigate the cookieless landscape seamlessly while continuing to deliver results for clients in a privacy-centric manner.

For more resources to prepare for third-party cookie deprecation, explore:

Michelle Philippon headshot

Michelle Philippon is a content marketing manager at Goodway Group. A creative and results-driven marketer with a record for producing captivating content, Michelle loves working with Goodway’s internal subject matter experts (SMEs) to provide useful insights to help agencies power their marketing campaigns to achieve meaningful outcomes. Michelle has over 10 years of experience writing for both business and consumer audiences and previously worked at a B2B marketing agency. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio, where she enjoys reading, hiking through Cleveland’s many metroparks, making jewelry from sea glass and drinking way too much coffee.