Death to cookies. Long live first-party data.

Christopher Lowe

Jun 29, 2021

Death to cookies. Long live first-party data. Featured Image
Christopher Lowe

Jun 29, 2021

That bell tolling in the distance, it’s for third-party cookies. 

Table of Contents
  1. What is a cookie?

  2. The Death of the Cookie: An Origin Story

  3. What is cross-targeted advertising?

  4. Privacy laws are marketing targeting advertising more difficult

  5. What are first-party cookies?

  6. The benefits of using first-party data

  7. First-party data revolution

  8. Enhancing your data collection capabilities

  9. Conclusion

What is a cookie? 

A cookie is a small file on a website domain used to collect information about visitors and improve their onsite experience. For example, cookies let a website know about a visitor’s preferred language, ex. English, French, or Mandarin. 

The Death of the Cookie: An Origin Story 

It all started in May 2019 with (GDPR) General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679. This law on data protection and privacy in the European Union created new rules on the use of cookies. 

Marketers had to:

  • Disclose the cookies on their websites
  • Explain what each cookie tracks and collects, and its purpose
  • Get consent to use cookies

But that’s the tip of the iceberg. They also had to:

  • Keep records
  • Allow users access to services, even if they decline to accept cookies
  • Allow visitors to withdraw their consent to cookies

GDPR started a chain reaction of privacy regulations around the world. Next came CPRA (California Privacy Rights Act), essentially the GDPR of California — currently, the most comprehensive data protection law in the US. 

But CPRA isn’t a carbon copy of GDPR. 

CPRA gives consumers the right to correct their data and limit the use of sensitive personal information. 

Most significantly, the CPRA added a “do not share my personal information for cross-context behavioral advertising” provision, giving consumers the ability to opt-out of cross-targeted advertising. 

What is cross-targeted advertising? 

Cross-targeted advertising tracks a user across apps and websites and uses cookie data to deliver more relevant advertising to them. 

The significant change happened when CPRA closed the loophole in the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) passed in 2018 that defined this as a sale. CPRA expanded the definition to go beyond the exchange of money, and so here we are today at the death knell of cookies. 

Privacy laws are marketing targeting advertising more difficult

If you’re a marketer, you’re no doubt seeing something about a cookieless future in your social media feed. There’s a mix of panic, confusion, and warp speed strategy-shifting.

There’s also a heightened interest in first-party cookies. 

What are first-party cookies?

Visitors who request a specific domain get first-party cookies. 

Adtech uses third-party cookie data to assign an ID to a visitor. That info is used to create a visitor profile and that information is used to build targeted audiences and segments.

Programmatic advertising then sells the opportunity to serve ads to those audience segments generated by third-party cookies. 

Advanced software and machine learning algorithms serve ads across the web and use third-party data to make the ads they serve hyper-relevant. 

The Big Three: Apple, Google, and Amazon are all going to stop using third-party data. Google recently announced an extension to their deadline for banning third-party cookies on Chrome. The original date was January 2022, but it has now been pushed back to late 2023. While this extension may be welcome for some marketers, this does not reduce the urgency for retailers to move from third-party data to “invited personalization,” aka data gathered directly from customers that allows retailers to personally understand them (also called zero-party data or declared data).

What’s more, Apple’s iOS 14.5 release introduced an app tracking transparency framework requiring consent for cross-app and cross-site tracking. 

Marketers will have to rely on first-party data to engage in contextual targeting. Based on probabilistic audience modeling, you might see ads for sports gear on a website about sports news. 

You’ll also likely see a more creative approach to engaging with consumers in a cookieless world. 

The benefits of using first-party data

First-party data is infinitely more valuable to advertisers than other data types because it identifies unique user behavior and transaction information. The data is based on the individual user’s activity instead of group activity, so it’s incredibly accurate, allowing for superior ad targeting and user experience. 

First-party data includes data collected from consumer actions or behavior across your websites, apps, or products. User information is gathered through your interaction with them, such as social media engagements, email subscriptions, polls, and other customer feedback methods. And it’s free since it’s collected from interactions through your proprietary channels. 

First-party data revolution 

Insider’s AI-powered Customer Data Platform (CDP) runs on first-party data. The kind of data that marketers and advertisers can use to build more comprehensive and accurate user profiles. 

Enhancing your data collection capabilities

To succeed in this brave new world of first-party data collection, you must ensure that all of your marketing channels are integrated and unified. In the era of first-party data, Insider is positioned to help you succeed.

What’s more, you can create more meaningful connections with consumers since they’re giving you their consent. We can help you maximize customer relationship building across these areas: 

You can use these, along with your existing subscription emails, to create a unified marketing strategy that will significantly improve each visitor’s experience.


Now or never. Laws like CPRA aren’t going away. They’re attempting to correct the intrusive behavior of brands and marketers. Given the current trends, federal privacy laws will likely become more comprehensive soon. 

Don’t throw in the towel just yet. It’s the perfect time to venture outside of your marketing and advertising comfort zone and explore the benefits and opportunities of first-party data.

Take an even deeper dive into first-party data. Read First-party data for enriched, responsible marketing.

Special thanks to the brilliant Brian Anderson and his illuminating insights on GDPR, third-party-cookies, data privacy laws, and how marketers and advertisers can adapt in the AdTech Trends: NFTs, First Party Data & the Crumbling Cookie Webinar.

Christopher has a long history of driving value and creating personalized, omnichannel journeys that enhance customer experience. He's passionate about learning and development and has a keen interest in developing economies, especially ones with a lot of room for digital growth.