What Does Google’s Third-Party Cookie Announcement Mean for You?

Late last year, Google announced that they plan to end support for third-party tracking cookies in Chrome within two years.

The fact that Google is providing a two-year warning is an indication of just how big of a shift this is for publishers, brands, browser providers and agencies – it’s essentially shifting the way the entire ad ecosystem works. This is an on-going fear and conversation amongst those who rely heavily on third-party cookies and there are no signs that the industry has come to a collective solution. However, brands should not be seeing immediate impacts.

What are third party cookies: Via Digiday

“The third-party cookie served as the workhorse of the independent ad tech ecosystem. Cookies are how ad tech companies communicate with one another in order to trade programmatic ads. Cookies are critical to all steps of the digital advertising process, from the planning and activation of ads to the measurement of how they perform.”

Clear Code provides an explanation of first and third-party cookies here.

What we know:

  • Chrome (estimated 60% browser share) will begin to denigrate third-party cookies only “once these approaches have addressed the needs of users, publishers, and advertisers, and we have developed the tools to mitigate workarounds.” Or sometime in 2022. (via Google engineering director, Justin Schuh via Digiday)
  • Safari (which has an estimated 18% share of worldwide browser market) and Firefox have already implemented stricter privacy, anti-tracking policies and programmatic traffic has taken a hit.

Who this will impact:

  • Advertisers who buy up large sums of programmatic media and rely on third-party targeting data will need new solutions
  • Google will likely win – advertisers will need to use Google’s tools for first-party data once cookies are removed
  • Publishers and brands with first party data or purchase behavior will likely win (e.g., Time Out or Amazon)

How behavior might shift:

  • Advertisers will look for ways to enrich their own first-party customer data through context signals or publisher partnerships (e.g., Amex partnering with The Points Guy on contextual ads)
  • Publishers and brands will focus on enriching their own first-party data is by encouraging logging in to their site
  • Frequency will be hard to control – with less tracking data it will be harder to understand how many ads were shown to an individual consumer
  • Brands will eventually need to focus on strong customer data management – transparent, single views of a customer through using a CDP or other data management solution

Final thoughts:

  • This is a fight playing out amongst large publishers and ad tech platforms – it does not have immediate consequences for most brands
  • But, it’s an issue many digital agencies are closely watching and brands are at least aware of
  • There is no current solution being adopted or agreed upon – we will be watching it play out over the next two years
  • Potentially more good news for direct mail – this plays into attribution challenges for digital media as it will become even more challenging to validate anything other than last click data. It is another reason that building a diverse marketing mix is key!

Additional reading:

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