What Google’s third-party cookie delay means for marketers

As Google continues to develop its Privacy Sandbox initiative, it has once again deferred disabling third-party cookies until 2024.

Below are a couple of views on the matter from people in the industry.

Mulder

Christian Mulder, data & analytics manager at performance marketing agency, Jaywing.

What do you make of the decision to push the cookie demise to 2024 by Google?

The change will impact a cross-section of their products, partners and advertisers, which makes perfect sense to ensure the technology is robust, industry education is at a good level and everyone is ready for the new chapter in privacy and measurement. After seeing the impact Apple’s privacy updates had on advertisers via reduced reporting capabilities, it is evident Google does not feel the market is ready for the change, and is prioritizing advertisers over privacy-conscious consumers. The decision is obviously bad for privacy conscious customers and a good thing for advertisers navigating the Privacy Sandbox (and not quite ready for the change).

We have been actively educating our clients about server side tracking and moving away from client side tracking, as a solution to bypass the impact that cookie consent settings will have on trackable data. With this in mind, we are all learning what a cookie-less world looks like, and we will no doubt have to continue to adapt and evolve to meet the needs of users’ privacy, whilst maintaining efficient digital campaigns.

What does it tell us about the state of alternative targeting technology in a post-cookie world?

Broadly speaking, it seems Google does not feel their technology and adoption by advertisers is enough to prevent the issues we have seen with Apple, and are therefore concerned with the impact it will have on revenue growth. Google’s solution to use Enhanced Conversions is either not being picked up widely enough by advertisers, or the loss of visibility is so great that they are reassessing their method of tracking without cookies.

Another aim of the push-back is to also allow Google the opportunity to expand the group of Chrome users who have opted in to Privacy Sandbox API’s globally from August and continue to build more users nearer to 2024.This should create a more seamless changeover of tracking by the time enhance conversions are enforced.

How will this decision impact the work done so far by brands, publishers and the wider media supply chain?

For early adopters, advertisers will have already initiated the switch and will continue to work towards a cookie-less future for their own requirements. It will allow advertisers to run Enhanced Conversions and traditionally cookie tracking simultaneously to measure the impact it will have on measurement and approach. It is vital that brands do not see this as an opportunity to slow down or reconsider the investment in operating in a post-cookie world, but instead use this time to learn and adapt internally if necessary.

What advice do you have for client side marketers?

The best advice at this stage would be to ignore the news and continue to plan and develop your own strategy to overcome the cookie updates. Assume that as much as Google could push the timeline out again, they could also bring things forward again if they so felt it was in the best interests of their business – sometimes these decisions are driven by external factors, parties and legislation.

The recent news ultimately gives advertisers more time to become accustomed to data tracking capabilities. Advertisers should be running tracking methodologies simultaneously and measuring the impact, which should allow advertisers to gain more confidence over time.

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Blanchard

Isabel Blanchard, paid media director, digital marketing agency, Tug.

What do you make of the decision to push the cookie demise to 2024 by Google?

Google is feeling the pressure from an industry that is not yet ready to move on from cookies. This is not the first time the deprecation has been pushed back since its announcement in 2019, but the demand for better measurement and attribution has continued to grow – which increases the data points and contingencies that the privacy sandbox needs to account for.

I’m looking forward to how Google will navigate this space as their FLEDGE API is specifically designed to serve ads in the browser without passing information to the publisher or advertiser. This API has not yet been tested but the concept is relatively interesting.

Was this news a surprise to you?

This really wasn’t a surprise considering the industry still considers it to be a hot topic. There’s been some movement on agencies, brands and tech vendors pushing more on adopting post-cookie measures such as server-side API, a more cohesive data ecosystem and syncing first-party data across platforms (buying, CDP and CMPs) – but it hasn ‘t really moved the dial for the majority of brands.

This is a great opportunity for companies that need more time to implement these structures and prepare their organizations for post-cookie impact. I wouldn’t waste this chance – best to chat to clients, agencies, tech vendors on how to navigate this. At some point Google is going to bite the bullet and do it and then it’ll be too late. We’ve already seen how iOS14.5 affected brands – that was a fraction compared to Chrome users (3.2 billion, as of 2021 – Statista, 2022).

What message does it send around the industry’s ongoing reliance on cookies and readiness for a new approach?

Change is tough. People will breathe a sigh of relief – some because they have bought extra time and others who believe they won’t have to deal with this for now. To be honest, I don’t know anyone who isn’t tired of the cookie conversation. Let’s get it done and get it done well.

How will this decision impact the work done so far by brands, publishers and the wider media supply chain?

While most people use the Google stack, it doesn’t mean that they can’t get left behind by the growth and successes of other tech companies. The Trade Desk and its Unified ID initiative is a market-leading solution and the fact that it is open-sourced and has partnerships with some of the biggest names of the industry makes it a great platform to test your next campaign (not sponsored). I’d be keen to see how Google competes with this.

What advice do you have for client-side marketers on how they read this latest news?

They should reach out to their performance agencies (who probably have worked very hard to have these conversations) and really sit down and start the post-cookie project. For example, there are still businesses out there not on Facebook’s Conversion API, preparing for Google Analytics 4, which will take a while to get used to, or even align their KPIs for measurement.

This is not a matter to be put off, it’s the time to say yes to preparing for post-cookie advertising.

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