Research Briefing: Brands are much less concerned this year about the end of the cookie

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In this edition, we share focal points from Digiday’s recently released report on how concerned brands are (or aren’t) about the death of the third-party cookie.

Half of brand pros worry about their ability to target ads post-cookie, down from 71% last year

The second half of the year is rolling, which means we’re getting closer to the actual beginning of the end of the third-party cookie. Brands are actively preparing for that impending reality, with many of them betting on first-party data as the top alternative to cookies. But marketers aren’t as worried about targeting and measuring ads in the post-cookie world as you might think, especially in the case of brands. This is according to a Digiday+ Research survey of 88 brand and agency professionals.

In the second quarter of 2022, nearly three-quarters of brand pros (71%) told Digiday they agreed they worried about their ability to target ads without cookies. In Q2 2023, that percentage fell to half (50%). At the same time, the percentage of brand pros who said they worry about their ability to measure ads without cookies fell from 84% in Q2 last year to just short of two-thirds (65%) in Q2 this year.

Key findings:

  • Far fewer brand pros think the end of third-party cookies will hurt their business than last year. Slightly more than half of brands (52%) agreed in Q2 last year that their business would hurt in a post-cookie world. This year, fewer than one-third (31%) said the same. What’s more, not one brand respondent to Digiday’s survey this year said they agree strongly that the end of the cookie will hurt their business, while 10% said so last year.
  • Overall, agency pros are still worried about targeting and measuring ads in a post-cookie world, but their worries are relatively unchanged from last year. More than half of agency pros (57%) said in Q2 this year they agree that they worry about their ability to target ads without third-party cookies vs. 53% last year. More than two-thirds (67%) said they worry about their ability to measure ads this year, slightly less than the 68% who said so in 2022.

Read full report

Research Rewind: Agencies choose contextual targeting over first-party data in post-cookie era

Because agency pros are still worried about their abilities to target and measure ads after the death of the third-party cookie, they are taking their preparations for a post-cookie world seriously. The percentage of agencies preparing for the end of the third-party cookie has been steadily increasing over the last two years, according to a Digiday+ Research survey of 56 agency professionals in the second quarter of this year.

In Q1 2021, 62% of agency pros told Digiday that they agreed somewhat or strongly that their businesses were actively preparing for a cookieless future. That percentage grew to 68% in Q3 2021, and again to 71% in Q2 2022, before hitting 73% in Q2 of this year. 

In case you missed it, most agencies are looking to contextual targeting as the way forward.

Key findings:

  • Almost three-quarters of agency pros (70%) said in Q2 2023 they are spending more on contextual targeting campaigns to prepare for the end of the third-party cookie, up from 47% a year ago. That puts contextual targeting well ahead of other alternatives, such as revising measurement and attribution frameworks, which came in second.
  • Agencies appear much less interested in first-party data than brands. Sixty-nine percent of brand pros said they’re investing in technology to acquire more first-party data this year, making it the most popular cookie alternative option among brands. In comparison, just 39% of agency pros said the same, down from 45% last year.

Read full report

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