Marketing in a Post Third-Party Cookie World

This article was originally published in the Vanderbilt Business Review. To read more articles like it, click here.

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Have you ever wondered how the exact shirt you were shopping for on the Urban Outfitters website showed up in an ad on the side of a article hours later? You have cookies to thank for that.

Cookies are used to collect information on users. Third-party cookies are implemented on websites by another company. The developer implementing the cookies embeds code into the target website from their own website, which then prompts the target site to incorporate that code into their webpage. They are often used for digital marketing as advertising networks can put cookies on other websites to track potential customers’ activity. Advertisers can use this information to serve personalized ads that are more likely to appeal to consumers.

Why are they going away on Chrome?

While not all third-party cookie use cases are problematic, they can be employed to create an incredibly detailed and invasive profile of someone. That profile can then be sold to other companies. In fact, 5% of all third-party cookie use cases are estimated to be used in ways that could be considered privacy violations (Cardlytics). 

In contrast, first-party cookies are cookies that track user behavior on a company’s own website. They are currently mainly used to improve the in-site user experience through mechanisms such as the shopping cart or remembering usernames.The reason that Google eliminated third-party cookies and not first-party cookies is because third-party cookie data is far less controlled by the original website. Users have very little transparency or control over where their data goes as they are dealing with an unseen third company.

Chrome is the last major browser that still does not automatically turn off third-party cookies for its users. Chrome’s delay is because they want to phase out cookies, unlike Firefox and Safari, who immediately changed their defaults to no third-party cookies. By making the phase-out a long-term process and providing other options, Google is attempting to minimize the number of people who will create more secretive tracking technologies. Google’s Privacy Sandbox is the initiative in charge of phasing out third-party cookies by developing new technologies to ensure user privacy and support the needs of advertisers. According to the Privacy Sandbox timeline, third-party cookies for 1% of users became restricted by default in Q1 of 2024 (January – March). By midway through Q3 2024 (July – September), Google will start gradually phasing out all support for third-party cookies.

What will replace cookies?

Within its Privacy Sandbox, Google is currently developing a plethora of tools that advertisers can use to collect information on users in a more privatized manner. The most promising proposal, advertisers say, is the Topics API algorithm. This tool still collects third-party data on users but then groups that information into cohorts to anonymize the data.

How do advertisers feel about all of this?

Data via Emodo and HubSpot

Advertisers are incredibly worried about what this change could mean for their business. They predict that they will need to spend 25% more to achieve the same results (Emodo). Marketers believe that first-party cookies will be used far more when attempting to understand and target users. Email marketing will also become far more prevalent as a means to reach consumers directly.

What does this mean for students looking for jobs or internships in marketing?

The marketing industry will change rapidly in the coming year, and so will the marketing job market. To understand how best to stay competitive, we asked Ethan Fesperman at the Career Center. Ethan shared, “For college students exploring and entering the marketing field, understanding what areas are constricting and which areas are growing is important.”

Networking is the most powerful way for a savvy student to navigate these market disruptions in their search for marketing opportunities.

Ethan Fesperman, Vanderbilt University Career Center

He focused a lot on the power of networking, explaining that it “is the most powerful way for a savvy student to navigate these market disruptions in their search for marketing opportunities. Developing a practice of connecting with industry professionals provides real-time insights into industry trends, skill development, and emerging sectors.”

“In addition to having career conversations with marketing professionals, joining professional associations such as the American Marketing Association is a simple step students can take to deepen their knowledge of the field. Most professional associations have a discounted student fee and provide curated resources and industry information.”

His final piece of advice is something we should all be taking advantage of! “The Career Center can support students in setting up their Marketing career action plan. Stop by our drop in hours to get started and our career coaches will give guidance on next steps!” To learn more about how the career center can help you, read Ron Ye’s recent article.

I believe this will create a shift in the responsibilities of future marketing interns as companies will be in need of new methods of conducting market research.

Morgan Hirsch, Vanderbilt University Student

We then talked to Morgan Hirsch, a freshman interested in marketing, about her thoughts on the situation. When asked how she thought the role of interns would change, she explained, “I believe this will create a shift in the responsibilities of future marketing interns as companies will be in need of new methods of conducting market research. Instead of the work of interns centering around marketing strategies and campaigns, I believe there will be more of a need for interns to conduct and analyze research on the behaviors of customers.”

We also asked her how she thinks the cookie phase-out will affect her odds of getting an internship next year; she shared, “I believe this could drive a greater need for unpaid interns, which will increase my odds of landing an internship in this field. Since marketing teams will have a greater amount of work in terms of market research, they will be in search of unpaid interns who can assist them with this task.”

In conclusion, it is essential for people looking to enter the marketing industry to stay up to date on new strategies, industry trends, and details on the cookie phase-out. Read the news. Network. Reach out to upperclassmen and alumni. Whatever you can do to make yourself a resource in this new environment, do it!

* Isabella Yalif serves as the Editor in Chief of the Vanderbilt Business Review