Today, Google began rolling out Tracking Protection, a new feature that limits the use of cross-site tracking by deprecating third-party cookies by default. Part of Google’s broader Privacy Sandbox initiative, this change affects 1% of Chrome users globally — about 30 million people. And it’s a milestone that many thought might never happen: In Forrester’s Marketing Survey, 2023 (a global survey fielded at the end of 2022), 51% of the global marketers we surveyed did not believe that Google would deprecate the third-party cookie.

Meanwhile, regulatory bodies like the European Union and Great Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority are continuing their investigation into Google’s Tracking Protection feature because of potential anti-competitive practices. Their main concern is that, with the introduction of Tracking Protection feature, it will impede competition in digital advertising because other players in the $250-billion-dollar advertising industry will become more reliant on Google’s consumer insights and capabilities for targeting and measurability.

Despite prior skepticism, marketers are taking action to adapt their data, measurement, and activation strategies. In Forrester’s Q4 2023 B2C Marketing CMO Pulse Survey, nearly half of the B2C marketing executives we surveyed said they are “revisiting their data deprecation strategy,” and a quarter said they “have accelerated their data deprecation strategy” because of Google’s plans to move forward with phasing out support for the third-party cookie by the end of 2024.

What Marketers Can Do To Deal With Cookie Deprecation In 2024

Google’s progress toward cookie deprecation redoubles the requirement for privacy-minded marketing strategies that ensure that customer data is ethically sourced and used. Maintaining the status quo is not an option. If you haven’t already, now is the time to start testing new approaches and get your first-party data strategy in order. Prioritize:

  • Investing in a variety of targeting approaches. There isn’t and won’t be a single replacement for the third-party cookie. Before the third-party cookie fully deprecates, test how alternative targeting mechanisms perform against traditional cookie-based approaches. This includes Google’s new Protected Audience API, formerly known as FLEDGE API, which provides custom audience and remarketing use cases, designed so that third parties cannot track user browsing behavior across sites. Don’t just rely on new targeting methods within Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative; try other methods such as contextual targeting, as well. Forty-four percent of B2C marketing executives who we surveyed have done so in the last 12 months.
  • Embracing new campaign performance measurement approaches. The data used to measure digital and mobile marketing strategies is most affected by the death of the third-party cookie and other tracking mechanisms. If you allocate marketing dollars to Google, test its Attribution Reporting API, which enables conversion measurement in a privacy-preserving way. Data clean rooms could provide suitable alternatives to measure campaigns, although there are scarce, scalable use cases. Forrester clients can use this tool to understand whether the data they currently use to measure their marketing efforts is at risk and how to mitigate the impacts of data deprecation.
  • Zero- and first-party data collection. More marketers are turning to first- and zero-party data to fill in the signal gaps. Forty-four percent of the B2C marketing executives we surveyed have implemented a first-party data strategy in the past 12 months, and 36% said they implemented zero-party data experiences in the past 12 months. This data, when collected transparently and judiciously, can be used to create higher-quality creative and build audience targeting profiles for advertising efforts.

We’ll continue tracking marketing executives’ perceptions of data deprecation and their plans to mitigate signal loss throughout 2024. Stay tuned for more research and blog posts on how to adjust your marketing, data, and measurement strategies. If you want to talk about your company’s plans to mitigate the four forces of data deprecation, request a guidance session.