Google has officially begun the much-anticipated purge of third-party cookies, a move that is set to dramatically transform the dynamics of digital advertising. As reported by Insider Intelligence, the tech giant turned off cookies for 1% of its Chrome users in January 2024, which, although seemingly small, represented approximately 30 million users. After several delays, Google plans to phase out cookies completely by the third quarter of this year.

Third-party cookies have long been a go-to tactic for many marketers who rely on personal data for targeted ad delivery across the internet. However, as digital privacy concerns have grown, so has their controversy, prompting key players throughout the digital advertising ecosystem to seek alternative solutions for advertisers.  

This change is significant as Chrome constitutes approximately 65% of browser usage, making Google’s pivot the most impactful in the market. Despite Google warning advertisers about the impending end of third-party cookies for years, many remain unprepared. According to research by Adobe, 75 percent of marketing and CX leaders still rely heavily on third-party cookies. 

Sunsetting cookies means that this conventional method of tracking user behavior online and then retargeting based on consumer browsing history will no longer be viable. For instance, if a user visited a website that offers diabetic recipes, advertisers could no longer use the cookies to serve targeted ads about diabetic-friendly products. Similarly, if a user read an article about bladder cancer, pharmaceutical companies could no longer retarget those users with relevant medications or treatment options.

Though eliminating this option may seem like a negative for marketers, it was never the ideal option as behavior does not equate to having a condition and the inherent privacy concerns. And it absolutely does not signify the end of targeted advertising.

Companies like Swoop have been leaders in developing privacy-safe methods that are also more effective at reaching the ideal patient audience. Swoop relies on offline data for targeting, including demographic and health data, and uses privacy-safe online IDs only to reach users, not to track them for targeting signals. Swoop partners, such as The Trade Desk (TTD) and LiveRamp, have been at the forefront of developing alternative methods to engage the right users, with TTD’s Unified ID 2.0 (UID2) solution, which provides privacy conscious cross-channel targeting, and with LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS), which connects first-party user data with an anonymized ID – all of which have proven more effective than third-party cookies.

The measurement of digital advertising campaigns is another area set to undergo changes. Swoop works closely with its advertisers and independent measurement partners to validate its industry-leading ROI, ensuring our clients are confident in the effectiveness of our audiences. These partners are also proactively ensuring their measurement strategies remain effective and reliable in this new environment.  

In practice, by using real world data for targeting Swoop’s clients have witnessed a steady increase in traffic over the past year due to these new identity solutions, proving the efficiency and effectiveness of this approach. Though traffic is a key deliverable in digital advertising, the real value lies in attracting quality traffic with high fidelity targeting, which is focused on the most resonant audience segments. As marketers seek to engage better audiences, the importance of partnering with a seasoned custom segment provider, such as Swoop, cannot be downplayed. 

Utilizing AI and real world data to pinpoint and cater to these valuable segments, which embody the precise traits and requirements of the target patients and providers, Swoop ensures that its clients’ advertising budgets are invested with precision, as opposed to dissipating funds on a wide, indiscriminate audience, thereby optimizing the effectiveness of ad spend, heightening conversion rates, and ultimately driving Rx lift. For example, in a campaign for Abbott using Swoop’s audiences, clicks grew 486%, completed call-to-actions increased 26% with 40% of a one-year target met within several months. Abbot gained a 13x return on marketing investment in one quarter by using higher quality audiences. 

Advertisers should prepare for a significant decline in the future number of impressions derived from online tracking or retargeting. This will inevitably lead to a shift in demand towards more high-value, offline targeting signals, such as Swoop’s custom audiences. This transition may pose challenges for some, but it also presents an opportunity for innovation and the evolution of advertising strategies in a more privacy-centric digital landscape. Health marketers who fail to prepare for this change or embrace other sources of data risk losing out when the switch is inevitably made.