I’ve heard many marketing people, in fairness mostly agency-side marketing people, express disappointment at the imminent complete demise of the cookie as a basis for identifying audiences for marketing messages.

There has been a gradual tightening of the noose when it comes to third party data. Firstly with GDPR coming into effect in May 2018; more recently with Apple’s introduction of App Tracking Transparency (ATT) in April 2021 and Google Chrome going cookieless in January 2022. ATT is that message all iOS users are now familiar with, when opening an app, asking them if they are happy to allow that app to “track (their) activity across other companies’ apps and websites”.

Let’s be under no illusion, these are big changes to the data landscape we have become familiar with and adept at working within. GDPR obviously affects all organisations operating in Europe. Chrome has 56% of the browser market globally and manages 50% of all web traffic and as of September 2021, Apple iOS market share in the UK and Ireland was 52%. So these changes affect us all as consumers and as brands.

We’re losing the ability to use 3rd party data for marketing… But what are we really losing? We’re losing something that has always had its major drawbacks. It’s ambiguous: the assumptions that we made about consumers’ browsing and purchasing behaviour based on third party data were always extrapolated and therefore always broad and inaccurate. It’s expensive: you obviously have to purchase third party data, and over an extended period of time that can be costly. It’s not exclusive: Your competitors were likely able to access the exact same third party data as you. It’s Limited in its use: Third party data is often limited to the platform where it is gathered.

The public don’t generally like the idea that their data is being used without them fully knowing or understanding exactly how it is being used

However, the very worst aspect of third party data is that it’s stigmatised… The public don’t generally like the idea that their data is being used without them fully knowing or understanding exactly how it is being used. Which is in fact the very reason why all of these changes to the data landscape have happened. They’ve happened in response to public opinion and request… For once, the tech giants listened to the public and responded accordingly.

Countless surveys have shown that the public has lost faith with corporations entrusted with its personal data. And no wonder. There have been myriad data breaches over the past 10 years. Some of which have been eye-wateringly huge. In the countdown of the world’s largest data breaches, notable brands with the dubious honour of being in the top 15 include Yahoo (3Bn personal data records affected), LinkedIn (700M records), Facebook (500M), Marriott (500M)… Household names, all of them. Add to that the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018 and individuals’ own experience of receiving un-solicited, poorly targeted and non-personalised ads and emails for decades, and no wonder the public has had enough.

The truth is, corporations have been greedy, lazy and reckless with individuals’ personal data for years and the brakes had to be applied. It’s a shame corporations were unable to see the damage they were doing themselves, and that it therefore required Government legislation, with potentially swingeing penalties for non-compliance, to bring them into line. But it’s good for us, as consumers… And we are all consumers, even if we are also marketeers. So, here we are, in an (almost) cookieless world in which a reliance on third party data for marketing is no longer an option.

But I’m here to tell you that’s really, really good news, not bad. Now brands have to focus on first party data, data they collect themselves. And in order to collect and use first party data properly, that means building, genuine, authentic, mutually beneficial relationships with customers. Relationships in which customers are happy to share their data because they trust you and they get what they want and need from you. But there’s no cutting corners here. Building trust means delivering: outstanding service, genuine positive experiences, value and consistency, all delivered with a genuine positive attitude in all communications.

Once again, tapping into the consumer in all of us this is all great news… But it’s also great news for brands. Or should I say, quality brands. Because the outfits that can’t deliver outstanding service, genuine positive experiences, value and consistency will fall by the wayside. And so they should. They will no longer be able to keep going through the merciless (mis)use of third party data!

First party data is everything that third party data isn’t.

First party data is everything that third party data isn’t. It’s highly accurate: it’s collected directly from your prospective and actual customers. It’s highly relevant: giving you meaningful information to understand your customers’ experiences better. It’s easier to collect and manage. It’s cost-effective: You’re paying for the infrastructure to collect, store and manage the data, but you aren’t paying for the data itself. Over time, that can be much less costly, as you still have digital infrastructure costs when working with third party data. It’s compliant: If you collect it in the right way with the right permissions in place it will be GDPR compliant (well, it has to be!). GDPR can be scary because of the penalties involved, but actually, its requirements are reasonable and reasonably straightforward to implement. So, again, contrary to popular belief, GDPR really isn’t rocket science, and is there, after all, to protect us all.

In short, the changed data landscape is fantastic for consumers, and we are all consumers, and whilst, for marketeers, it changes our marketing practices and our focus, that’s for the good and ultimately for the benefit of all serious brands… It forces us to take customer relationships really seriously, and it switches our focus to first party data and first party data is solid gold… It’s your competitive advantage. It’s time to leverage that advantage to the full… Watch this space for more on that coming soon!

tim france


Chief Technical Officer at V360°