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What the loss of third party cookies means for financial brands



Carolyn Corda


Over the last 26 years, financial brands have used third-party cookies to fuel digital marketing strategies. Tracking people from website to website across the web, third-party cookies inform marketing campaigns, allowing financial institutions to create highly personalized ads based on user patterns and behavior. For example, third-party cookies enable banks and building societies to send tailored offers around mortgages to first-time buyers based on searches on online estate agents such as PurpleBricks and Rightmove.

However, this is all set to change. Growing concerns over the impact of third-party cookies on user privacy have led to increased crackdowns on their use. Apple launched its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) in 2017, Firefox launched its Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) in September 2019 and with Google set to follow suit in 2023, the writing is on the wall for third-party cookies. 

With Apple recently changing its tracking on iPhones to ask people to opt-in to data sharing and the EU and the US providing greater scrutiny on data privacy, it’s essential that marketers find a privacy secure replacement to cookies and other data tracking methods.


Using first-party data to greater effect

As the Google update won’t fully roll out for another two years, the industry has time to figure out how it can adapt to a cookie-less future. While Google is aiming to replace the third-party cookie with its own solution, FloC, there are better options. 

Financial marketers can fill the gap in knowledge and insights from third-party cookies by using the information they already have. Banks, credit card lenders and building societies currently sit upon a wealth of first-party data such as buying propensity, online activity, and digital channel affinity, which could be used to tailor marketing messages to customers. 

With research finding that personalization drives revenue and brand loyalty, it is key that financial brands use their own first-party data to greater effect. However, while a brand’s first-party data can be incredibly useful, it does have limitations. First-party data can’t show how customers interact with other brands. While this might at first glance seem like a minor issue, it has a huge impact on a brand’s ability to accurately send personalized messages to customers. 

Take, for example, a credit card company that knows it has a customer that is signed up to an airline rewards program. If the brand also knows what sort of activities that person enjoys abroad, then they can send target offers or messages based on their interests – helping both the customer and the brand. In other words, if someone searches for concert venues abroad, then they are more likely to respond positively to messages around entertainment-based rewards. 


Walled Gardens

The first step any financial marketers might take in obtaining external first-party data is partnering with Facebook and Google. Both giants have an array of data that can help financial institutions reach the right audience with the right message. 

However, there are downsides in using Facebook and Google. While they provide marketers with data, they do set limits on how brands use their platform. For example, they only enable brands to reach audiences within their platform. This means that they can’t use data from Google and Facebook in other external processes. For financial marketers, this limits their ability to personalize digital marketing campaigns beyond those platforms – across owned channels, the open web and more. 


Adopting a privacy-centric approach

Obtaining a more tailored approach to communications requires brands to enter into data partnerships. These partnerships provide marketers with a rich supply of first-party data from a wide network of brands. However, with the debate around the third-party cookie showing the increased scrutiny of digital marketing practices, any data partnership needs to be privacy-centric.  

First-party data shared with an external brand, therefore, needs to be tokenized, so that personal identifiers (name, age, location) aren’t given to outside parties and that partner brands are able to access the necessary insights into customers. At Adara, we are able to leverage these insights, layering them on top of each other from multiple brands to create a fully anonymous and secure individual graph to enable relevant and personalized customer engagement, as well as an understanding of what customers need and want from their financial institutions of choice. This means that financial marketers have access to insights they know to be accurate, and predictive – so they can make informed decisions both about what a customer wants today and what they may require in future. 

The added benefit of anonymous and secure identity graphs is confidence. In other words, marketers can feel secure in knowing that they understand what customers want, and what they’re comfortable doing post COVID. Furthermore, they feel confident knowing that they are using privacy-centric techniques that are safe to use and unexploitable by other parties.

Even though the final nail in the coffin of the cookie is two years out, it’s clear that financial institutions need to prepare for the change now. If finance marketers don’t start laying out the groundwork, then they will lose out to competitors who are entering into data partnerships and trying to fill the gap left by third-party cookies.


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