Digital & Insights

Cookies Monster: Reaching Your Target Audience Without Third-Party Tracking

Third-Party Cookies: A third-party cookie is placed on your hard disk by a website you are visiting. As with standard cookies, third-party cookies are placed so that a site can remember something about you at a later time.

Cookies have become so ingrained in our web browsing routine that we don’t notice them anymore. Accepting cookies when the banner pops up is automatic. But what are you accepting with that click?

Your acceptance allows third-party cookies to track your web behavior, anonymously, so advertisers can easily retarget you based on your browsing history. The picture frame you added to your cart that is now following you around the internet on every banner ad and sponsored Facebook post? Thank cookies for that.

As annoying as that may be, it’s undeniable that tracking and targeting through cookies has been extremely effective for marketers and advertisers looking to reach their target audience with multiple online touchpoints – with retargeted display ads gaining a 10x higher click-through rate than non-cookie-based targeting. In other words, you will eventually buy that frame.

Demise of the third-party cookie

While cookies have been a boon for digital marketing, many consumer groups are less convinced. Measures have been adopted by the state of California and the European Union, through CCPA and GDPR respectively, to help make this tracking more transparent for the user, so they can more fully understand how their data is being exploited.

In addition, third-party cookies are being shunted at the source. Safari and Firefox have already stopped cookie tracking through the browsers, and the final death knell for the cookie will be when the most popular browser, Google Chrome, phases out cookie tracking in the next two years.

An audience-first approach

If advertisers can’t track who is clicking on what, what is the most effective method to measure success? Identifying the specific audience or audiences at the onset of a campaign is key. Everything stems from your knowledge of the person you’re looking to reach.

Knowing an audience dictates which platform you can reach them on – from social media to search engine marketing to podcasts – what kind of content resonates with them most, and what are the key messages which will encourage them to respond to a call-to-action.

While third-party cookies will be missed in the digital marketing arsenal, implementing an audience-first approach will help mitigate some of the lost benefits, including message and content personalization, and the precise ability to measure the impact of the campaign through various analytics implementations.

How to define and reach your audience…without cookies

If audiences are at the center of a campaign, the importance of accurately identifying them – and not just from a demographic standpoint – is paramount. Our approach to audience identification, segmentation and mapping – which relies heavily on our diverse team of researchers, data scientists and digital marketing strategists – allows us to not only recreate some of the key benefits of third-party cookies in campaigns, but to add layers to client data for greater tangible campaign impact.

We work with e-mail databases in order to map, define and target audiences within specific platforms, such as LinkedIn. If available data isn’t on that level, we can help plot demographic and psychographic data against indexes to build out audience profiles and personas. And we can build out relevant keyword lists to use for contextual targeting across search, display and native advertising channels.

If we’re starting from scratch, our research team can survey populations in order to determine key areas of focus as we define an audience and engage them through messaging and content.

The digital marketing and advertising space is constantly shifting, but if you have a sound strategic approach, with an eye towards the audience at each stage of campaign development, your ability to drive measurable results is greatly enhanced… with or without the help of cookies.

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