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3 Things You Can Do Now To Prepare For A Future Without 3rd Party Cookies

by Hannah Thompson | 09.03.2021

The most talked about thing in the industry press right now is the depreciation of 3rd party cookies. Here at Tug, we’ve been preparing for this since the announcement last year and you can read our handy guide to the changes here. The most challenging part of this change is that there doesn’t appear to be a clear solution to it yet (even though it comes into effect next year) and the most common question we see is ‘but what can we do to prepare now?’. 

If you’re a brand or advertiser, this is where we’d start:

1. Audit your 1st party data

Advertisers that will be the best at seeing these changes through will be those that have a solid grasp on their own data – and that doesn’t just mean having lots of it. It’s important that you know what data you already have that isn’t 3rd party cookie-based, what your gaps are, how you’re storing and organising it, and most importantly – how you can activate it.

If you realise that you don’t have a lot of first-party data (perhaps your vertical just doesn’t generally collect this) then think about ways you can encourage users to part with this data in a legally compliant manner. In all circumstances, this will involve a value exchange. Perhaps you’re a SaaS company and you want to start a webinar program to encourage email sign-ups, or maybe you’re a retail company that doesn’t get a lot of signed-in purchases and can build a loyalty programme to encourage setting up an account.

If you find you have issues storing and organising your data in a way that makes analysis and activation less complex then now is the time to start researching tools and partners to help with this. If you discover that you may benefit from a CDP then be aware that these can take time to set up and integrate. You might find that there are integrations that you can use within your existing tech stack with a little bit of additional training or internal collaboration e.g. API connectors. But don’t stall on this – the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago but the next best time is today.

Once your data is collected in a legally compliant way and stored and organised efficiently, your next step will be to work with your media buyers on finding ways to integrate this data into your media plans. There’s no need to wait until the changes come into effect to do this – once the data is there you should begin testing, learning and optimising. You may find that your media buyers need to adjust their own tech stack or begin working with new partners in order to get the most out of cookieless buying and, as we all know, plans take time to optimise and reach their full potential. 

2. Audit your media plan

In tandem with getting your data-ducks in a row, you should be asking your media buyers to be auditing your media plan. Every single one of your buyers should be familiar with the % of spend and the % of performance that comes from 3rd party cookies. 

Audits will help you prioritise where you and your media buyers should focus their time. Any risks found, such as heavy reliance on retargeting or the use of a custom multi-touch attribution model to measure upper-funnel activity may take time to resolve and solutions should be tested sooner rather than later. What you may find is that your risk level is actually lower than you think (we’ve had some clients be surprised by how unreliant it turns out they are on 3rd party cookies), in which case you can focus on broader projects (such as data activation) and bigger-picture testing. 

It’s also important to remember that this doesn’t just affect programmatic display. Paid Social and SEM will also be impacted from a targeting and a measurement perspective. For any advertiser using cookie-based retargeting lists or multi-touch attribution, plans may need to be adjusted to take into account how unreliable these tactics will become. 

3. Stay up to date

Over the next weeks and months there will be countless articles, webinars and solutions coming to the fore and it may be hard to keep up with it all. Our recommendations on how to stay up to date are:

  1. Use your data and media audits to inform what you need to spend the most time on.
  2. Find a couple of different trusted sources to use (we love sites like Exchange WIre, AdExchanger and The Drum here at Tug).
  3. Engage your agencies – it’s our job to be able to help you navigate these waters and we have the resource available to put together workshops and audits on the things that are most pertinent to you.

If you’d like to discuss any of the above with our teams then please reach out!