This week, Google announced that it is extending the replacement of third-party cookies until the second half of 2024.
The internet giant is also expanding its Privacy Sandbox trials as a more privacy-safe way to measure user activity.
To find out what this means for the performance marketing industry, PMW spoke to 10 experts and found a general consensus of disappointment, with many looking forward to a cookie-free future…and better tracking technology.
“45%+ of the internet is already cookieless, mobile in-app is cookieless, and CTV is cookieless”
Travis Clinger, SVP, Addressability and Activations, LiveRamp: “The announcement by Google may be an indication that Google feels not enough companies have started their transition to cookieless alternatives. Regardless of the timeline Google has set, 45%+ of the internet is already cookieless, mobile in-app is cookieless, and CTV is cookieless. The time is now for publishers and marketers to control their destiny and transition away from cookie-based identity to people-based identity.
“Given the current economic uncertainty, it is especially important to optimise the impact of every marketing and advertising spend. Marketers should be asking themselves if their investments are addressable, accountable and measurable. Those who are making progress on their cookieless futures and negotiating based on business outcomes, rather than traditional reach and awareness metrics, can ensure media dollars are working harder than ever before.”
“Big tech's answer… is to make these audiences available but only in their own walled gardens; essentially being the guardians of consumer data and trust. This shouldn’t be their role in the ecosystem.”
Mark Pearlstein, CRO at Permutive: “Google’s decision to extend the life of third-party cookies comes at a time when publishers are already seeing high opt-out rates following the implementation of a reject-all cookies option in Europe (as high as 55%). Big tech's answer to cookie deprecation is to make these audiences available but only in their own walled gardens; essentially being the guardians of consumer data and trust. This shouldn’t be their role in the ecosystem.”
“In regards to restoring consumer trust, it's not up to big tech to fix the problem; it's increasingly becoming a brand's responsibility to consider where they put ad spend. Recent research shows that nearly nine in 10 consumers say they would be more likely to spend money with a brand that makes a commitment to protecting their personal data online over one that doesn't. Consumers need to feel confident that brands have standards which align with both privacy regulations and consumer sentiment.”
“To this end, a new breed of adtech needs to empower brands to treat consumer data with respect by acting as an infrastructure versus an intermediary. Big tech’s role is to be a driving force behind a new era of privacy, allowing companies to move past uncertainty and into a more responsible web.”
“Apple isn't a trillion dollar company because they protected your data. They are a trillion dollar company because they hoard it.”
Pierre Diennet, Head of Global Partnerships, Lotame: “The two big browser / device manufacturers are going in opposite directions. Apple is restricting its technology and devices further, whilst Google is making them more transparent.
“What’s interesting is how marketers have entirely abdicated the fight with Apple. If we look at what the CMA took Alphabet to court for, namely "limiting production, markets or technical development to the prejudice of consumers" and "applying dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage", this is very much what Apple has been doing and continues to double and triple down on.
“In IOS 15.4 Apple has gone full-paternalistic and set blocking by default, removing the choice for consumers to engage with and share with the brands, apps, publishers they enjoy. The only entity that can monetize app and browser activity on IOS 15.4 and later with any real effectiveness is Apple. I'm waiting for the public to wake up to the fact that Apple isn't a trillion dollar company because they protected your data. They are a trillion dollar company because they hoard it.”
“The cookieless era hasn’t been postponed, it is already here”
James Colborn, Head of Global Data, Teads: “It is important that brands, publishers and adtech do not view the announcement from Google as a chance to rest on their laurels. Instead, it should be taken as yet another wake up call to be testing solutions now. Indeed, the cookieless era hasn’t been postponed, it is already here.
“Many browsers including Safari, Firefox and Edge have already made going cookieless imperative, indeed we have seen that 40% of the open web globally is already cookieless, rising up to 60% in markets with greater Apple penetration, such as the UK and US. Third-party cookie alternatives have been around for several years now, and have been proven to outperform their predecessors in user identification and measurement capabilities, if done properly. No matter how long Google takes to finally deprecate third-party data, if brands and publishers delay the integration of these solutions, it will only mean less cookieless readiness when the axe does finally swing.”
“Businesses mustn’t take this as an opportunity to relax”
Charlie Johnson (she/her), Vice President, International, Digital Element: “This is a disappointing move by Google as so many ad tech companies have invested heavily in preparing for a cookieless world from 2023. On the other hand, companies now have the opportunity to continue to test and refine their new identity lead solutions. The new deadline will be here in no time though, so businesses mustn’t take this as an opportunity to relax. Savvy organisations will continue to put their consumers first and strive to build better solutions despite the change.”
“Testing and implementing analytics tools that aren’t reliant on individual personal data remains crucial”
Paula Gómez, Data & Adtech Director, Making Science: “Despite the digital advertising industry beginning to adapt to privacy requirements, Google’s extension reflects the need for more preparation. Testing and implementing analytics tools that aren’t reliant on individual personal data remains crucial. Brand should still be seeking guidance on how they can best secure the granular audience insights that will be needed for effective targeting in future.”
“What Google has done has just postponed the inevitable and created more confusion”
Peter Wallace, MD for EMEA at GumGum: “We're hearing a narrative from Google that the delay in phasing out third-party cookies for Chrome is being done because the advertising industry isn’t ready for the transition. But the ad world has been getting ready for this for years now and is more prepared than Google may think. It was always going to take the removal of third-party cookies from Chrome for the industry to take the final step and fully immerse itself in a cookieless structure. What Google has done has just postponed the inevitable and created more confusion – that’s not in the interests of the industry and certainly isn’t in the interests of consumers.
“Advertisers shouldn’t use this as an excuse to slow their transition to cookieless solutions, like contextual targeting, that don’t require any personal data and can’t be tracked back to an individual user. People have told us time and time again that they aren’t happy with having their personal data tracked and used for personalised advertising. As an industry, we need to be moving towards a cookieless, consumer-first approach. This will be beneficial not just for consumers but for our businesses as well, because it will ultimately promote much greater acceptance of digital advertising.”
“Savvier advertisers are already testing their campaigns without user identifiers”
Heather Lloyd, Head of Product Marketing at Nano Interactive: "The industry shouldn't let the delay distract them from their pace of testing and learning cookieless solutions. By continuing this momentum of exploring more privacy-friendly solutions, advertisers are starting to see the merits of moving away from the metrics of old that gave a somewhat one dimensional view of the consumer and campaign success. Indeed, the savvier advertisers who are aligned with the wider legislative landscape are already testing their campaigns without user identifiers.
"For example, it is now possible to utilise advanced contextual models that drill down to the level of content sentiment and can gauge users' emotions. By doing this, advertisers are able to get a much clearer and accurate picture of the consumer as well as their mindset. Advertisers can also now look at time-in-view (TIV) which is defined by the length of time a creative is in view for and how this correlates to uplifts in key brand metrics.
"The reality is, this will not go away, regardless of whether Google delays the deprecation by another few years or not. As a result, we need to ensure that, collectively, the industry maintains an all hands-on-deck approach and embraces the change, opportunities and learnings it will bring."
“It is possible now to deliver proven performance without user tracking and profiling”
Nadia Gonzalez, CMO at Scibids: "Privacy-first solutions can be complex, which is likely why Google has extended its deadline again for banning third-party cookies, giving more time to advertisers and publishers to test alternatives. It is possible now, however, to deliver proven performance without user tracking and profiling. Scibids is an example of how AI technology can deliver powerful ad decisioning performance with efficiency and scale, all while making the preservation of privacy a core initiative. We look forward to testing privacy sandbox initiatives, but the industry can and should work hard to get alternatives in place now and stop relying on third-party cookies."
“Exciting new brand-safe areas like gaming and the metaverse will accelerate the way a brand can engage with its audiences in the digital space”
Anna Forbes, COO at Azerion: “Google’s decision to delay for an additional year is inevitable, given the progress that many brands and advertisers are making towards cookieless solutions - it is a shame that some businesses still aren’t ready. Advertisers who step outside of the third-party cookie silo will unlock huge opportunities to successfully deliver high-impact marketing strategies. Alternatives like contextual, interactive formats and exciting new brand-safe areas like gaming and the metaverse will accelerate the way a brand can engage with its audiences in the digital space. Despite this delay, the time is now to make the jump towards a more privacy-first, dynamic approach to your identity solution.”
"Complete campaign audits and privacy health-checks, building websites to be capable of tracking a similar level of data to what is gained from third-party identifiers, and focusing on contextual data over demographic data will put businesses in good stead"
Kate Jervis, Growth Director, Incubeta: “While Google’s decision to delay the deprecation of third-party cookies undoubtedly gives the industry more time to prepare, the end of these identifiers is still very much on the horizon and it’s more important now than ever before to prepare your infrastructure for a privacy-first world. In a similar vein, marketers should look to prioritise moving to GA4 in order to protect their future data assets.
“Activations such as complete campaign audits and privacy health-checks, building websites to be capable of tracking a similar level of data to what is gained from third-party identifiers, and focusing on contextual data over demographic data will put businesses in good stead ahead of 2024. Taking responsibility for users’ data and creating a strong data-driven strategy that can handle the change when third-party cookies and Google Analytics are gone should be prioritised now.”
“Rather than waiting another year for Google’s lead, the rest of the industry should be looking beyond cookies”
Paul Coggins, CEO of Adludio, said: “Google may have stayed the execution of cookies, but this will not bother those brands and publishers already making the most of cookieless solutions. Indeed, rather than waiting another year for Google’s lead, the rest of the industry should be looking beyond cookies, exploring and testing more efficient and ethical methods, including first-party and behavioural data.
“Capable of achieving much higher measurement and targeting figures, these solutions are serving not only to drive innovation across the Open Web and improve bottom lines, they are also helping rebuild consumer trust in the ad tech space. Meanwhile, Google’s delay will only serve to frustrate users and bring it into further conflict with regulatory bodies. Brands and publishers should pay little mind to this announcement, and continue to pursue innovation.”
“A great need for Google to decisively fight fingerprinting mechanisms prior to introducing FLEDGE on a bigger scale”
Lukasz Wlodarczyk, VP of Programmatic Ecosystem Growth and Innovation, RTB House: “At RTB House we have been active in the current FLEDGE origin trial and have already launched over 2,700 advertisers globally for testing using this API. So far, we have leveraged our direct-to-publisher integration, which allowed us to validate multiple scenarios: adding users to interest groups on advertiser websites, displaying ad after winning FLEDGE auction, counting organic impressions and clicks. There are, however, some issues that have not allowed us to test as much as we would like.
“The first bottleneck has been FLEDGE’s availability in Chrome which is because only 50% of Chrome beta version users have been included in the test population. The second bottleneck is that supply-side platforms (SSPs) have not yet delivered a solution compatible with FLEDGE, that would provide publishers’ advertising inventory to DSPs participating in the trial.
“As a result of these challenges, it is imperative that Google explains how they will make transition periods #1 and #2, as indicated in its timeline, work. The technical functionality of FLEDGE API for 100% of the user base will not be sufficient, if market participants are not motivated enough to use Chrome-provided APIs. Google therefore needs to educate the industry better on the benefits of using these tools.
“As mentioned above, Google will provide some sort of education in the form of a user-facing prompt for both information and opt-in uses. However, we believe that it will not be enough to provide a sufficient motivation for the market to fully transition to FLEDGE API, and not use tools leveraging fingerprinting methods, relying on sensitive user data for identification and tracking.
“We see a great need for Google to decisively fight fingerprinting mechanisms prior to introducing FLEDGE on a bigger scale. Otherwise, the market will move away from cookies in favour of these privacy-invasive tools, instead of a real improvement in the form of dedicated privacy-preserving marketing APIs.”