The end of third-party cookies: how digital marketers can adapt and thrive

Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar? Well, Safari, Firefox, and now Google… 

funny chihuahua dog stealing dog treats from a jar, indoors shot on the floor

Google has announced plans to phase out third-party cookies by the end of this year. Safari and Firefox browsers have been blocking them by default. Other tech companies will soon follow. This change is driven by increasing concerns for privacy and the need for digital marketing solutions that don’t compromise on security.  

Safeguarding our audience’s privacy has always been a priority, so this change does not require a big shift in our attitude to digital marketing. But it presents new challenges and opportunities in how we target and evaluate campaigns.  

How does the end of third-party cookies affect us? 


Third-party cookies can help create hyper-targeted campaigns. By tracking user behaviour across the web, they provide information about users’ online behaviours, interests and characteristics. Without them, we will no longer have access to a wealth of granular data.  


Third-party cookies provide a precise evaluation framework for digital campaigns. Without them, we cannot track users across different websites and understand how they interact with ads or see how ads converted to sign-ups or downloads.   

Remember: cookie consent won’t disappear 

The end of third-party cookies will not eliminate the need for compliance with data protection regulations like UK GDPR. We will still have to ensure that our data collection practices, including the use of first-party cookies and any tracking technologies we use, comply with privacy laws. The nature and appearance of cookie consent might change. They might be more simplified in terms of the data that is being collected. They could also be more comprehensive and transparent, and provide more information on data practices. They might give the user more control and options for how they allow us to collect data.  

How can we adapt to digital marketing without third-party cookies? 

Focus on first-party data  

We will have to focus on leveraging first-party data. That’s information gathered first-hand from our owned channels like websites, newsletters, CRM systems, social media and personal interactions. We must build direct relationships with our audiences. Our websites, newsletters and social media will become even more valuable sources of audience insight.  

For example, we can use our newsletter analytics to test engagement rates with different types of content. This can give us insights into audience preferences and interests. We can ensure our websites are enhanced for first-party data collection with easy navigation and interactive content, and we can focus on getting more users to register for newsletters and other content.  

While this presents challenges with collecting, storing and analysing data from various sources, the payoff is worth the effort. First-party data is more accurate, credible and relevant. We also have full control over how this data is collected and used, and we can better ensure compliance with privacy regulations.  


Without third-party cookie tracking, we will have to rely on first-party data analytics like engagement rates on owned platforms, direct feedback such as surveys and social media analytics. UTM links will help us analyse effectiveness of campaign communications. A/B testing various elements of our digital campaigns – email subject lines, call-to-actions, landing pages – can help with insight into audience behaviour.  

Content-centric marketing 

Content-centric and content-led approaches to digital marketing will be paramount. Without the ability to hyper-target and super-personalise our campaigns, we will need to focus on content. Our campaigns must be insight-led and use high-quality content that is engaging and relevant.  Social media must be led with engaging, relevant and shareable content.  

Contextual advertising  

Advertise like it’s 2003? We might go back to placing display ads on pages with related content. (Like ads for a skincare product next to an article on skincare tips.) If you can no longer target your ads based on your audience’s behaviour, you might as well target your ads based on what they are reading or watching.  

A strong channel strategy is now more important than ever  

Focusing on direct channels for first-party data gives us a chance to build stronger relationships with our audiences. To do this effectively and efficiently, we will need to follow a leaner channel strategy, one that makes maximum impact and lets us focus on each channel to gain better insights.  

The big picture 

Overall, the end of third-party cookies will encourage us to follow a prudent, introspective and thoughtful digital marketing strategy. As we focus on building direct relationships with our audiences, and creating insight-led, content-centric campaigns, we will manage our budgets carefully. This also means that marketing campaigns will focus on quality and not quantity. By prioritising privacy and data protection we will build more trust with residents. We will look at our digital audience as people and communities with voices, needs and preferences.  

Share this page

Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person