In many ways, Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies is about getting the best of both worlds. Protecting the privacy of individuals online, while still promoting an open ecosystem that benefits publishers.
So it comes as little surprise that the online advertising industry has (mostly) welcomed the move.
Making the announcement earlier this week, Google director of Chrome engineering Justin Schuh said the aim was to gradually phase out third-party cookies – which is in contrast to competing browsers Safari and Firefox – to avoid any “unintended consequences that can negatively impact both users and the web ecosystem”.
And this is an approach that has drawn praise from SpotX ANZ MD Ilda Jamison.
“With browsers like Safari and Firefox taking a hardline approach, you have to commend Google for being more consultative in their approach to privacy with the adtech community,” Jamison told B&T.
Google’s answer to the third-party cookie is the Privacy Sandbox, which was announced last year as a way to give users greater control over their browsing privacy, while still promoting personalisation.
“The Privacy Sandbox has some good thought starters for alternatives to the cookie, however, the devil is in the detail and it remains to be seen how these ideas evolve with input and collaboration from the industry,” continued Jamison.
Rubicon Project country manager Rohan Creasey said the sandbox can help promote industry-wide change.
“Every major publisher has been working on a combination of publisher first-party data, signed on users, and standardised Universal IDs,” he said.
“With the addition of the Privacy Sandbox API, we feel the industry has enough tools to gracefully manage this transition in a way that maintains all of the key use cases for third-party IDs – targeting, conversation tracking, frequency capping, and user opt-outs.
“Rubicon Project fully supports consumer-first method/s for delivering personalised advertising – including Google’s Privacy Sandbox as it gets fleshed out.”
While the termination of third-party cookies is undoubtedly a major shakeup to the entire online advertising industry, it does not come as a surprise.
Nor should it, Google first announced its plans in May 2018.
“The industry’s over-reliance on third party cookies for analytics, campaign targeting, management and attribution across the open internet has run its course,” said IAB Australia CEO Gai Le Roy.
“This announcement was not unexpected.”
But with change comes opportunity. And Le Roy tipped the online advertising industry to successfully adapt.
“While the changes to third-party cookies will provide challenges, we believe that it in the long term it will improve the way we look at overall digital advertising activity (and actually all ad activity) so that it becomes be less focussed on cookie history from one device and shifts to a more holistic view of the impact of the overall marketer’s media spend,” she said.
GroupM chief technology & transformation officer Cameron King said: “Prioritising consumer privacy and giving consumers a better online experience are to be supported.
“This is a significant but expected development in the deprecation of third party cookies, and fortunately, provides a long lead time to assess and mitigate potential impacts across planning, ad targeting, analytics, and attribution.”
adapt or perish
Similarly, PubMatic Regional Director ANZ Peter Barry told B&T some businesses now risk being left behind.
“This announcement has been a long time coming, especially given the changes already implemented by Safari and Firefox – it should come as no surprise. But any company that hasn’t been looking at the opportunity this change brings, may now be having a few sleepless nights,” said Barry.
“Google’s move will impact almost all use cases for the third-party cookie – from targeting to measurement and attribution. In particular, I believe this change will see the digital advertising ecosystem step up its efforts to find a consumer-friendly audience addressability solution backed by first-party user login data or some type of deterministic ID.
“There are a lot of premium publishers out there with user login data and ID solutions who can help publishers activate that data for marketers.”
Although the removal of third-party cookies may change how users are served online ads, it might not change the actual ads being served.
“Rather than showing you a sneaker ad because you were shopping for shoes two hours ago, you’ll get a sneaker ad because you’re reading about the World Cup,” said DoubleVerify in a statement.
“Contextual targeting is a return to traditional online ad campaigns, where reaching a consumer meant showing up on the right article or piece of content.”
We believe that modern contextual targeting is more data-driven. It incorporates new technologies like artificial intelligence and semantic science to ensure ads run on the right website and the right page, targeting the right audience. In a way, it’s very similar to brand safety targeting.
LiveRamp Australia & New Zealand country manager Natalya Pollard added: “We see this decision as an opportunity for the ecosystem to upgrade beyond the cookie, and accelerate the global adoption of cookieless solutions.”
is two years long enough?
Google has set a somewhat optimistic timeframe of two years to phase out third-party cookies.
While some have questioned the feasibility of this, Google is calling on the industry to come together to ensure it happens in time.
So is the industry ready to collaborate?
“We believe that, through constructive consultation and active collaboration with the ecosystem, positive results will come out of the Privacy Sandbox initiatives,” said Criteo in a press release.
“As a result, we will continue to work with Google and the ecosystem on defining technical alternatives to third-party cookies that support these goals end to meet the needs of the ecosystem as a whole.”
Similarly, Creasey from Rubicon Project signalled an intent to collaborate.
“Google is asking for help and for feedback. We plan on giving it to them and we encourage the rest of the industry to do the same.”
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