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3PCs + Their Impact on Your Marketing Strategy


Retargeting (also sometimes called “remarketing”) is the practice of showing ads to users based on a previous interaction they’ve had with your business. 

These interactions may include:

  • Visiting your website

  • Viewing specific product pages 

  • Adding items to a cart

  • Watching videos 

  • Making a purchase

  • Filling out a form

  • Opting into an email newsletter

  • Interacting with social media

Retargeting allows you to show highly relevant messages to members of key audience segments (website visitors interested in your products or services) at the right time. However, the phasing out of 3PCs is shaking this up. 

How to retarget using cookies 

Cookie-based retargeting strategies have often relied almost exclusively on third-party data.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You want to run retargeting ads on a third-party platform, like AdRoll. 

  2. You create an account with AdRoll and implement the AdRoll tracking pixel on your website.

  3. When users visit your website, the pixel fires, and AdRoll tracks those users’ activities and behaviors.

  4. AdRoll uses this information to retarget users who visited a specific page on your website or took a certain action. AdRoll shows those users your ads on other publisher websites and apps they visit, all based on your campaign settings. 

  5. If users click on a retargeting ad, AdRoll tracks the click to your site and attributes on-site conversions to that ad click.

  6. AdRoll uses the information it collects from the pixel to see which user segments are most likely to take certain actions. These insights are used to optimize ad placements in this and all future campaigns.

As Google Chrome — the world’s most popular web browser — adopts similar policies to Firefox and Safari regarding 3PCs, things may get even more complicated. 

Fortunately, there are workarounds emerging to include Google’s Protected Audience API and alternative identifiers intended to replicate the functionality of 3PCs. Now is the time to explore cookieless alternatives and shift your marketing strategy accordingly.

The relationship between 3PCs and pixels

A pixel is a conduit through which a cookie is placed on a website visitor’s browser. Both pixels and cookies have a role in tracking user behavior and activities across the web.

Pixels are pieces of code placed on a website that gather and send data directly to the host server. Cookies, on the other hand, are placed within a user’s browser and essentially store information for the pixel to use later.

Because cookies are placed on a web browser (and not embedded within a website), users generally have more control over them. They’re able to take actions like blocking cookies or clearing them from their web browser.

So now the question becomes: With the phase-out of 3PCs on Chrome, what is the fate of pixels?

Pixels in a 3PC-less world

Pixels will remain a highly important piece of advertising and tracking even after 3PCs are phased out. They will still be able to gather data about on-site activity from users, like page views and conversions. However, 3PC deprecation will impact a pixel’s ability to attribute advertising activity consistently on a granular level and result in new reporting and measurement systems.

The AdRoll pixel, for example, is one of the most important functionalities when it comes to running campaigns on our platform. Without adaptation to 3PC deprecation, our pixel’s ability to link on-site activities to advertising on publisher sites will be less detailed, though its role will remain critical.

We are actively working to shift our pixel’s use of third-party cookies to first-party cookies. This will enable site segmentation and most conversion tracking we see in AdRoll today. These changes are happening on the backend and we hope to change as little as possible in the day-to-day workflow. That said, we anticipate there will be some impacts to what data can be captured and reported. For example, view-through conversion tracking largely relies on 3PCs. Many identity solutions and proposals — especially the Attribution Reporting API — claim to provide view-through conversions, and we are actively testing these solutions. We will release our findings as soon as we have them and help you plan for any changes we foresee.