Ad Tech & Programmatic

Why marketers aren’t cookie-free yet

Half of marketers surveyed still “depend heavily” on cookies, according to Adobe.
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Francis Scialabba

3 min read

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While Google only began phasing out third-party cookies in January, some people had been freaking out about it long before: 40% of marketers Adobe surveyed in 2022 who said the cookie phaseout would hurt their businesses thought it would cause “significant harm or devastation.”

Several months later, marketers are still trying to adjust to the new ad tech landscape. It’s being reshaped by not only the decrease in cookies, but also by the effects of generative AI and expected higher demand for content, according to a survey of 2,800 marketers Adobe released this week (having recently debuted its own GenAI tools.) While marketers now say they’re less concerned about the cookie phaseout, many say they don’t have the structure in place to adapt, according to Adobe.

“Brands are struggling to build a strong data foundation beyond third-party cookies, and risk hurting their business,” Adobe found.

Shake it up

Almost half of companies globally (49%) still “depend heavily” on third-party cookies; the travel, technology, public sector, and financial services industries are the most dependent, according to the report. That’s a drop from 75% in 2022.

Company spend on activations that use cookie-based targeting has also nosedived since 2022: While in 2024, 28% of companies surveyed indicated they spend 50% or more of their budgets on those activations, in 2022 that number was 45%.

Nearly two in five (37%) “said the accelerated deprecation…negatively impacted their ability to track, target, and measure.” More than half (53%) felt that cookie deprecation would have “little to no impact” on them, or thought that “cookies will never go away completely.”

While marketers had different feelings on the impact of the cookie breakup, most of their companies are still working to create “a strong first-party data strategy,” according to the report. Only 26% of respondents said their companies have compiled data across their organization “and are producing actionable insights.” A far larger group, 65%, are still working to get to that point. One in 10 respondents said their companies have trouble bringing data together.

At the same time businesses are building out their data foundations as cookies deprecate, consumer demand for personalized content is growing; without that foundation, companies may struggle to attract and retain users, according to Adobe. Of those surveyed, 83% have seen a growth in content demand over the last two years, and 64% expected that demand to grow at least 5x in the next two years.

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