Preparing for a Cookieless Future – an EMEA perspective

Byrony Seifert

This article is a summary of the webinar, ‘Tethering Brand & Buyer: Targeting your brand in a changing digital B2B space’ and is part of a series of content we’re running in preparation for changes to digital cookies in 2023-24.

cookiesSoon, targeting your audience will dramatically shift gears from a huge – and arguably lazy – reliance on 3rd party cookies to a scenario where marketers must make rewarding connections with individuals based on accurate data.

How this dynamic situation will evolve and what those new solutions to connect will look like is not yet clear. What is certain is the need to take steps now to wean your organisation off a cookie-rich diet and find a leaner, smarter, healthier way of digital marketing and driving demand as your number one New Year resolution for 2023.

GDPR, Google 3rd Party Cookies – Changes and Impact on Brand Strategy

Google’s decision to phase out 3rd party cookies in Chrome is linked to the sharp legal focus on how personal data is used on the web. Having 3rd party cookies placed on other people’s sites is useful in aggregating data about visiting individuals browsing and buying habits and building up a picture of who they are.

Data is the new oil; its value recognised by individuals and the law. People are no longer happy to have their data shared indiscriminately and are protective of who has access to their personal information. Their demand for more privacy, transparency, choice, and control over just who gets to have access to their personal information is backed by the law and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in European and UK markets which came into force in 2018.

Breaches of the strict rules covering data protection principles including accuracy, storage, integrity, and confidentiality result in harsh fines, of up to 20 million euros, or up to 4% of annual global turnover. Authorities show they are prepared to use their teeth and bite down hard on transgressors with fines on the increase. Facebook is just one high profile company that has been hit in the wallet – it was slapped with a 60-million-euro penalty in January for failing to obtain proper cookie consent from its users.

But the biggest loss is to reputation. Once consumers are suspicious of how you use their data, they will take their business elsewhere to a competitor they can trust. It’s time to get smart and make the right data choices when thinking about brand alignment.

Window of Opportunity to Develop New Ideas

With reports of up to 89% of marketers still using 3rd party cookies, replacing them with a viable alternative is the big challenge. Marketers must find new avenues to gain insights to identify potential buyers and focus on protecting their digital brand and connecting with their audience.

Since the global pandemic, the trend towards virtual continues to accelerate, with research suggesting that only 35% of events will be in-person. The challenge for marketers is how to get up-close-and-personal in the new cookieless normal and establish a strong digital brand connection. They need to take data privacy very seriously, and they need to be seriously exploring new cookieless avenues to target the right audience with their brand beyond 2023.

Several alternative approaches to 3rd party cookies are in the running. The importance of collecting and cleansing first-party data should play a crucial role. Likewise, working with major players in the industry you’re in to effectively target your audience is a proven pathway.

One option that makes marketers more hesitant is a topics-based approach where the browser shares a list of advertising topics that possibly attract a user’s interests. The worry is it is too broad-based and inaccurate for granular targeting. At the other end of the spectrum are tracking mechanisms such as The Trade Desk Unified ID 2.0 with hashed and encrypted email-based identity associations.

However, with so much uncertainty, it is vital to keep close tabs on all potential developments, so you are poised to prioritise the best approach to replace 3rd party cookies and develop closer bonds with your audience.

Engagement and the Importance of Intent Data  

If customers are actively engaging and sharing information with you, because you fully understand their needs and they are eager to engage, this is a win-win situation and creates meaningful digital conversations with richer buyer communities around the brand. The removal of 3rd party cookies as an advertising tech solution may be daunting, but the change offers an exciting opportunity to get back to the basics of creating valuable content people are excited to engage with based on one-to-few and one-to-one relationships.

Intent data can help identify potential customers because content consumption is a strong indication of buyer intent. Intent data testing lets marketers get an idea of the value proposition of their offers with their target audience. By showing what content an individual is interested in and therefore likely to buy, you can home in on your best prospects and improve your sales process.

Organisations that don’t have the opportunities or resources to proactively identify and target users themselves, should investigate how they can partner up with big players in their industry who have the information they need by putting their brand alongside. With high levels of user engagement generating first-party data, the big hitters can help you unlock access to intent data and explore where the best conversions will come from and developments and opportunities for your brand.

The Time to Test is Now 

Without a crystal ball to foresee the best option to replace 3rd party cookies, now is the time to evaluate all available options. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Google are walled gardens with strong boundaries around their data and they are busy testing several features to let marketers develop their strategies when 3rd party cookies are off the menu. Anonymous user data may be off limits after 2023, but while tech solutions remain on the table, the advice is to get busy testing attribution models that come with them and lean heavily on contextual alignment with partners you know and trust who are tethered to your target audience.

It is vital to get a strong handle on who is sending the best traffic, where the best conversions are coming from, and who is influencing the most. Many platforms are busy innovating with developments such as single image ad retargeting to help create audiences based on people who have engaged with their single image ad.

Eye up the bigger publishers who can open doors for you. Use their platform data to test and find what fits you best as a company to target dynamic audiences in the future. By getting to know your audience intimately and testing with the publishers that attract your audience, marketing budgets will be spent more wisely pound for pound to generate quality insights rather than relying on a scatter-gun approach with a poor return on investment.

Taking Testing Forward

Once you know what appeals, marketers should endeavour to keep up the momentum with an always-on approach to consistently get their brand in front of these audiences. Testing needs to be thorough and with more editorially-focused content engines. Get experts on your site who attract followers to push your own content. It also makes sense to focus on your digital network with partners who can promote and link your content to build brand awareness.

The basic principles of creating compelling content, thought-through website design and website modelling will ensure your audience enjoys a quality experience and comes back to you repeatedly. Test the user experience and the user interface on your website, and landing pages to ensure they are delivering on all fronts. If you are global, for example, ensure that translations of content are accurate and localised. Positive interactions with content make it more likely your audience will want to share their data with you because you are giving them something valuable in return.

It makes sense for testing to start now to maximise insights, but the duration will vary depending on the nature of the campaign. Running a Google ad campaign and testing it for a fixed period will gain various levels of insight depending on how many impressions you gain. A test based on 100 impressions a day will not yield as much insight as a test gaining 100,000 daily impressions, for example. It is important to gain a critical mass of data and have built data lists with which you can work. There is no strict answer on testing length – it is a question of gaining enough information from the campaign to gain insight and make good calls.

Another option is to run multiple tests and for distinct reasons – to validate a hypothesis or to learn from insights and even mistakes. The more testing you have in real-time the better. Likewise, the more varied the tests allowing you to be responsive and optimise, or to switch gears in the event of failure, the better prepared you will be for success in a cookieless future

Post 3rd Party Cookie Success

Creating an irresistible draw towards your brand is dependent on creating a powerful connection with the target audience. Building that compelling narrative is the key to success and will encourage data exchange because you are offering something unique. Your brand is likely to make it on shortlists because you have created an emotional connection with your target audience.

Prior to the impending deadline, the focus should be determining how to showcase valuable content, deciding which partners can help with brand promotion, identifying the best channels, and experimenting with gating content versus non-gating. Once 3rd party cookies have crumbled, valuable content that generates an engaging experience with your target audience, will help create a close and stronger bond based on trust and mutual benefit.

To find out more about how TechTarget branding solutions can help you navigate a cookieless world, please visit

This blog provides unique perspectives and expertise based on our direct experiences within the EMEA market and is designed to be a resource for marketers targeting or working directly within this market.

b2b digital advertising, EMEA marketing strategies, global marketing, Google, third-party cookies

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