As Sure As Night Becomes Day, The End Of Third-Party Cookies Has Been Delayed

As Sure As Night Becomes Day, The End Of Third-Party Cookies Has Been Delayed

Last week, Google took the not-unexpected step of delaying the end of third-party cookies again.

Citing “ongoing challenges” and “divergent feedback” from different corners of the digital advertising industry, Google delayed the end of third-party cookies from the “second half of Q4” to early 2025.

Much of the dragging has come from Google having to work with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). But frankly, we’ve seen this movie before. Does it make any difference to digital marketers? B&T chatted with a selection of industry insiders about the advertising’s very own Lazarus.

“In contrast to the moves by other web browsers, Google has been consulting the industry heavily and their transparency has helped many marketers to forward plan and prepare. We shouldn’t underestimate how helpful this has been,” said Tom Braybrook, managing director of Acceleration, GroupM’s data and technology consulting practice.

“Of course, the news today isn’t a huge surprise, but it should not provide advertisers with any increased comfort. Even prior to the changes taking effect in Chrome, we have observed up to a 35 per cent loss of signals in advertising from existing cookie rejection from web browsers and ad blocking. To reiterate, advertisers are likely to be missing out on up to a third of digital ad signals today. This has a knock-on impact to measurement, platform optimisation and ROAS as a result.

“For marketers, if you have a plan to address cookie depreciation, then stick to it. If you don’t, then get your skates on as you’re likely at a competitive disadvantage already.”

Jonas Jaanimagi, IAB Australia’s tech lead, offered similar advice to Braybrook, adding that the “changes are coming.” However, he added that companies on both sides of the demand-side aisle need to remain focused on their core offerings.

“Sellers need to initially focus on their own domain(s) and how to ensure buyers can meaningfully access audiences — whilst buyers need to be able to test for how to most effectively target, optimise and measure without third-party cookies. This is critical for both for in-house teams and for those working closely with any vendor partners,” he explained.

Of course, the death of third-party cookies is not unique to Chrome — though its status as by far and away the world’s most popular browser gives it an extra level of importance.

“This advice is not just for Chrome, but across the full range of different browsers for web (particularly Microsoft Edge and Safari), and operating systems for in-app environments (particularly iOS),” added Jaanimagi.

So what difference will delaying the death of third-party cookies actually make? We’ve known this is coming for a while.

“What was initially slated to be a two-year phase-out period is now four years and counting — and there is no firm timetable for when the changes will be in full effect,” explained Sam Thompson, agency business partner at IPG-owned Kinesso.

While Thompson said the delay “was not ideal” he did concede it gave everyone in the industry more time to test the potential alternatives and find the best way forward.

Shane Hanby, managing director ANZ of Publicis-owned Epsilon, recently told B&T that openness and honesty between brands, marketers, agencies and tech teams was “key” to getting through the end of the cookie.

For James McDonald, co-founder and director of independent advertising services agency Audience Group, news of the delay is “irrelevant” for smart marketers who are “thinking beyond traditional digital performance media strategies.”

“Cookies have been deprecated in non-Chrome browsers for a long time. Anyone not prepared with a first-party data strategy and a non-pixel measurement strategy, should not delay. A non-cookie targeting approach using your first-party data will be at least as good as a cookie-based approach and it sets you up for a post-cookie world while also allowing you to better target iOS devices and non-Chrome browsers,” he explained.

There are, of course, a litany of adtech players ready and waiting with potential solutions. Playground xyz, now known as GumGum, is one such firm. Its head of media, Sorrel Osbourne, explained that smart brands are already taking advantage of some of its tools.

“While this delay from Google won’t be an unexpected update for our industry, brands are already seeing the value of reaching the right people, in the right mindset, while not relying on cookies. We know this won’t halt the innovative approach that brands are taking to be best-in-market on respecting consumer privacy,” she said.

“GumGum’s stance will continue to be a privacy-first approach to finding the ideal match between the consumer and the brand, using our contextual technology Verity and verified through our attention technology.”

We’ll see you all again in early 2025 if (when?) Google delays the end of third-party cookies again.

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