Marketing Briefing: What are marketers prioritizing as Google starts to crumble the third-party cookie?

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Google kicked off the year with a signal that, yes, the third-party cookie is actually going away by starting to disable third-party cookies for 1% of Chrome users on Jan. 4. While questions — many of them — about what happens next remain, it’s clear that Google is no longer kicking the can down the road.

Marketers have already been working over the last two to three years to prepare for the long-awaited death of the third-party cookie. Even so, the readiness of the industry for said exit isn’t as certain as some would hope. How prepared a marketer is to manage this shift will vary. Trends of the last few years including a push for more full funnel marketing efforts, a recognition of the importance of owned channels vs. paid as well as a need to amp up loyalty programs to continue to collect first-party data will continue in the coming months. 

“The conversations that have happened with the last two years are how do we prepare for the cookie-less future? What do we need to do?” said Leah Sand, executive director at VML. “A lot of companies invested in [customer data platforms] aligning their data first-party and zero-party data collection strategies trying to get a single view of the customer.” 

The budget shifts to manage fallout from the third-party cookie depracation have already been happening. Aside from investing in first-party data efforts, taking a more full-funnel approach as well as prioritizing owned and earned media more now, marketers are recognizing that whatever they’ve left on the backburner when it comes to managing third-party cookie fallout will have to be a top priority now. 

“It’s not about this first step,” said Jon Morgenstern, head of investment at VaynerMedia. “It’s 1%. It’s teeny tiny. Now it’s like, ‘Oh, now we actually have to make sure that anything we’ve been kicking down the can [down the road] ourselves, just like Google was kicking the can, we actually got to start doing right now.’” 

Sorting out the measurement challenges that will surely come with he third-party cookie culling will be one of those priorities. While marketers have been investing in more marketing mix modeling, agency execs say that mass market testing and in-platform studies will also be prioritized with a cottage industry of measurement solutions cropping up. That may help the industry get to a better sense of measurement and attribution which has long been a problem. 

“This whole cookie going away thing is a great opportunity for us to get away from the parts of performance marketing that have actually just been kind of gaming attribution models vs. looking at what is actually growing the business,” said Ed McElvain head of performance, Mediahub. “What our clients really care about is driving more sales, getting more people to tune into their TV shows, getting more tickets, etc.” 

Even as Google’s move is a first step — and one that was long-awaited — marketers will have to grapple with the many challenges the end of third-party cookie brings. 

“As marketers, our jobs are so much harder because you really do have to have a full marketing mix of a variety of different activation partners or otherwise you’re not gonna be able to reach the people that you’re most inclined to reach,” said Dan Perez, svp at Epsilon. “So that’s really where we’re spending our time. It’s helping educate, kind of break down the fear and then really talking about the metrics we think are important.”

3 Questions with Sherrill Kaplan, chief digital officer of Planet Fitness

Last week, Planet Fitness announced the launch of a media network. Why now?

Following the success we’ve had with our Perks affiliate program over the last three years, our team recognized that based on our scale and market leadership, we could create differentiated opportunities for advertisers, which grew into the PF Media Network. At the same time, the decline of cookie tracking forced advertisers to think about new media opportunities that allowed them to reach targeted groups. We now have a variety of advertising platforms to help brands reach our 18.7 million members at any part of the marketing funnel, awareness to sales.

In recent years, there have been so many media networks from various brands. How will Planet Fitness differentiate? What’s the pitch to marketers?

We believe that Planet Fitness’ 18.7 million members across 2,575 locations, a monthly average of 40 million check ins, and lengthy member dwell time of 30-60 minutes at the gym differentiates our offering. Our member base represents a cross-section of the U.S. population, skewing towards Gen Z and Millennials, which our advertising partners are eager to serve in dynamic and efficient ways. Specifically, our first party check-in data allows us to target within our digital out-of-home network based on demographics, interests and other variables.

Any predictions for the major marketing trends for 2024?

AI will impact marketing by creating efficiencies that allow more time for creativity. With the decline of browsing cookies, advertisers will more frequently pursue quality first-party data to reach relevant consumers. Privacy and data safety will become even more important to consumers.

By the numbers

It’s been a long time coming, but the countdown to Google’s third-party cookie apocalypse has finally begun, sending digital advertising into an uncertain future. Whether the ad industry as a whole is prepared for said apocalypse is up for debate, at least according to Digiday’s recent reporting. So how is the industry coping? The potential use of alternative tracking technologies, according to survey findings from digital marketing agency Adtaxi’s 2024 Privacy Survey, is one way. See key details below:

  • In the event of data privacy regulations limiting information gathering, a significant majority (74%) of data privacy professionals intend to augment their dependence on customer relations management programs.
  • While a significant majority of respondents (66%) are actively pursuing or planning changes to incorporate AI in their privacy policies, 38% express a desire to make adjustments, although they are not presently in the planning stages.
  • 89% of online users pay attention to the collection of their personal data, preferring pre-purchase notices over digging through terms and conditions. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“This year is the year of AI. It’s really just a tool that speeds us up to move faster. The difference [with AI versus previous technologies that have dominated CES] is we’ve never seen a tool or a technology really hit so many, impact so many spaces that it basically saves time in many, many, many, many industries and many parts of your workflow all at once.”

— Ben James, chief innovation officer at Gale Agency, of the focus on AI this year for brands and CES.

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