Though Google has postponed third party (3P) cookie deprecation until early 2025 there’s no doubt that we’re still well on our way to a world without 3P cookies. This move has been several years in the making and, as a result, has made building strategies around the collection of first party data (1PD) central to a brands’ success.

Research from Deloitte shows that 61% of high-growth companies are already shifting to a 1PD strategy. Elsewhere, Google found that 92% of leading marketers believe using 1PD to continuously build an understanding of what people want is critical to growth.

But maximizing 1PD isn’t as simple as flicking a switch, especially when brands have been fed a diet of 3P cookies for so long. Many brands struggle to orchestrate their teams, their technology, and their data.

However, as data and technology consultants we’ve helped many of the world’s top advertisers tackle this challenge, and have identified a common set of strategic 1PD actions and capabilities that enable marketers to drive transformation, unlock more value from their data, and maximize returns on technology investments. 

Here are six ways brands can build a strong 1P data foundation to not only help them prepare for 3P cookie deprecation, but position their businesses for long-term growth:

1. Build large, active 1PD data sets

Most brands have some form of 1P data today; however, many do not have enough of it to effectively replace what they’ll lose when 3P cookies disappear. To limit the impact of 3P cookie deprecation on media and marketing performance, it’s critical to build large and active 1P data sets. Doing so will offset the loss of 3P cookies, helping you maintain reach and economies of scale when it comes to media activation. 

We’ve listed this as our first tip for a reason – it is one of the most critical things a marketer can do to successfully reach and engage their customers in the future. Its importance cannot be overstated.

2. Enable transactionable identity via 1PD

Different devices and platforms allow users to create multiple identities. Each identity generates a unique data footprint, which impairs the effectiveness of targeted marketing campaigns. Brands need to invest in some form of consumer “identity” which can be shared with external partners in a privacy complaint way. Identity removes PII/signal data which can be used to identify a person and limit tracking across digital entities. This identity can act as an alternative to 3P cookies once they sunset. Though it’s not an exact replacement for cookies, it can be used to tie media delivery back to a user set. 

When building their identity, brands must unify their own data to stitch together a meaningful customer journey across platforms, over time. 1PD plays a critical role in this and can ultimately help you build a native identity that you can transact and activate against.

3. Integrate 1PD with media activation platforms

1PD will become the backbone on which media delivery will rely on. Integrating 1PD in a privacy compliant way with media activation platforms will preserve media performance in the face of signal loss. It will ensure that you can create rich and relevant audience segments and their performance can be tied to known user signals.

4. Keep privacy at the forefront of your mind. Always. 

As you collect, connect, and activate your 1PD, you must always have privacy top-of-mind. It’s important to have a strong privacy policy that protects consumers and keeps their information safe. This also means understanding your partners’ privacy policies and carefully considering who you share your data with, how you share it, and how you integrate it.  

5. Use the privacy sandbox & cleanrooms for 1PD activation

Privacy sandboxes are Google’s cookie alternative products. They provide privacy-friendly ways for advertisers to target and track users without 3P cookies. Using these overlayed with 1PD will enable brands to view performance using their core consumer data as a foundational layer. Clean rooms serve a similar function where 1PD, 2PD & 3PD can be brought together across media partners in a privacy compliant way.

6. Report based on 1PD signals

As we move away from 3P data signals and 1P data becomes the foundational data set for advertising, it will also play a more active role in cross channel performance analytics. All reporting will eventually inform clients on how their known user base is performing and how to actively convert and keep the unknown visitors on their media properties. Ensure your reporting accounts for your 1PD and provides insight into performance based on your 1P data. 

The most effective path to unlocking benefits

 Understandably, there is a lot here to consider but strategically investing in your 1PD and capabilities will help enable a seamless transition to a cookieless world. Whether it is one of them, or all, the most important takeaway for brands is to take steps to get on top of their 1PD as soon as possible. In the near term, 1PD will help you maintain performance as 3P cookies disappear next year, but perhaps more importantly, 1PD will be foundational for your marketing transformation in years to come.