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Personalization and the Importance of Privacy for Brands In the Post Cookie Landscape



Carolyn Corda


As all marketers know, personalization is critical for brands – both in acquiring new customers and driving further value from existing ones. With the emergence of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and 5G, that enable highly targeted marketing to different audiences, it is clear that brands need to personalize messages in order to stand out and connect with consumers in this increasingly competitive space.

However, the de facto process for targeting and executing personalized messages, the third-party cookie, will be phased out by January 2022. Apple and Firefox have already stopped using third-party cookies on their browsers; meanwhile, Google Chrome – with nearly half the market share of web browser usage – is set to follow soon.

Without the insight and information that third-party cookies provide, brands will find it much harder to personalize messages to consumers. Data in a post-cookie landscape will be limited to walled gardens and first-party information such as purchases, name and location. With consumers coming to expect personalized content as the baseline in most communications, the loss of third-party cookies will put many brands at a disadvantage, and make it harder to send the most relevant promotions to the right person at the right time. It is imperative that marketers take action to fill the gap left by the death of the third-party cookie by finding new data sources to allow them to execute personalized marketing efforts.

Putting privacy first

Lack of transparency and infringements upon consumer privacy are the main reasons behind the death of the cookie. Any replacement, then, needs to first and foremost be privacy safe.

Finding a privacy-safe solution that also delivers results is easier said than done. Replacements such as Google’s cookie alternative, FLoC, and walled gardens like Facebook and Amazon don’t give advertisers the flexibility to tailor data sources to their own specific wants and needs. While walled gardens do have the scale and log-ins to track and target billions of users with deterministic insights, they don’t allow brands to use insights outside of their ecosystem.

For example, brands are unable to use Facebook, Google and Amazon to find specific audiences based on their travel habits, real estate plans, preferred credit cards, mortgages and other products, and then reach these potential customers on other platforms. This means that any advertising campaigns using just these walled gardens as a source will lack the information needed to deliver highly personalized messages to consumers across every channel.

While marketers will still undoubtedly want to work within Google and Facebook’s first-party environments, it’s crucial that brands also seek ethically sourced, privacy-centric data from elsewhere. Brands should be developing their own targeting and measurement strategies that go beyond walled gardens.

Data sources and partnerships

Brands should be looking to replace the gap left by third-party cookies by utilizing their own first-party data in combination with data from external partnerships. When properly structured with organizations that have high data protection standards in place, data partnerships give brands a broader view of their consumers. They also allow them to send highly relevant messages in a privacy-centric manner. In other words, they can give brands insight into how people interact with a group of other companies and, therefore, data into a wider set of consumer behaviors and patterns.

From here on in, data collaboration should become the mantra for brands. There are many avenues forward when it comes to making first-party data partnerships. For example, there are complementary brands such as supermarket chains and consumer packaged goods, or airlines and hotels. There are publishers that require a login or app developers that require opt-in. Brands also have the option to score online data using insights from offline data. But to test all of these options for quality, scale and, of course, performance, requires brands to start partner conversations now.

Tips to choosing the right data collaboration partners:

  • Ensure they collect data from their customers in a transparent manner
  • Determine if they collect and use data with a privacy-first approach
  • Review opt-out mechanisms for compliance and customer-friendliness
  • Check the scale of the data to ensure it makes sense based on the company’s footprint
  • See how frequently the data is updated and inactive data is removed

If a partner meets all these criteria, then it is time to structure an agreement that enforces all of these conditions. The agreement should discuss how the data is transferred and shared, what the acceptable use cases are for the data and how opt-in/opt-out is managed. While complex, creating an agreement that considers every element of compliance and privacy up front will avoid issues later on. Part of the agreement is, of course, the value of the data itself. Determining a cost per use, value exchange or volume price based on different use cases can ensure that the agreement and partnership are worth the effort.

As we approach the death of the third-party cookie, brands need to prepare themselves for the seismic change in personalization and digital marketing. Those that adapt by utilizing first-party data and entering into data partnerships will find that they are able to fill the gap left by the third-party cookie while remaining privacy safe. Brands will also ensure that they have a competitive edge by delivering the right message at the right time to existing customers and potential new ones.

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