In early 2020, Google announced it would be phasing out the third-party cookie. This came as part of the move towards creating a more secure, private and open web for users. While this announcement sent shockwaves throughout the ad tech industry, ultimately, it is a positive decision for consumers.
We break down what led to Google’s decision to move away from third-party cookies, the significance of undertaking such a path, and what this means for marketers.
Reach out to us as we can guide you through these changes and new targeting solutions.
Why did Google decide to phase out the third-party cookie?
For a while now, users have demanded greater privacy and transparency. Users want choice and control over how their data is collected, shared and used. Other browsers such as Safari and Firefox have already changed course, and now Google is set to respond, too. This change speaks to legal concerns such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US. One thing that has really sparked user concern is the limited understanding about the value exchange of the internet. The advertising industry must communicate and educate users on the value exchange that exists between access to free, high-quality content and the collection of data.
So, what even is a cookie?
Essentially, cookies are small pieces of data that are collected as the user browses the internet, and then stored by the web browser on that user’s computer. Cookies are designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember information about users, and to record their web browsing activity. They have been heavily used in the ad tech ecosystem for targeting, personalisation, optimisation, tracking and measurement of digital campaigns. They have served their purpose for many years, but do have some limitations: they don’t work in-app, they don’t work across multiple browsers, and they can be cleared easily by the user.
While there are many different types of cookies, the ones to focus on are third-party and first-party cookies.
Imagine that a data provider had their code on a publisher domain. This is a third-party cookie, and it is what’s being deprecated. These cookies do not belong to the main domain owner loaded by third-party servers, and are accessible on any website that loads the third-party server’s code.
On the other hand, first-party cookies originate from the main domain owner opened on the web browser, and only work on that particular domain. To use the example above, imagine that a brand had code on their domain to use for retargeting purposes. This type of cookie will still be accessible as we move forward.
What is Google doing now?
There is still no firm date for the deprecation, however, Google’s proposed timeframe is by 2022. The tech giant is still working on new initiatives and solutions. One initiative is the Privacy Sandbox, which sets standards to sustain a healthy, ad-supported internet that renders third-party cookies obsolete. It is also developing initiatives such as the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), a privacy-focused solution that delivers relevant advertising through forming large groups of anonymised people that share similar interests. User data will be processed on-device instead of being broadcast across the internet.
Last week, Google confirmed it will not be building out alternative identifiers to track users as they browse across the web.
It is important to note that things are changing daily as new solutions emerge. We will keep you updated throughout this process.
What’s the impact on marketing campaigns?
The ad tech and digital marketing industry has had an obsession with cookies. This has to change.
We have used cookies to collect groups of users, personalise ads, track user behaviour, and measure the performance of digital marketing campaigns. It may be challenging to rethink and execute the granular targeting that we are used to, but this change is a huge opportunity to rethink how we run, target and optimise campaigns.
First-party data will become more valuable than ever before so it’s important for brands to build a strategy around it. This will involve cleaning up your database, and making sure you gain consent from users for this data to be used in the first place. Walled garden, or technology with first-party data, will thrive as third-party cookies become obsolete.
As cross-site measurement may be impacted, older panel-based measurement techniques may become valuable once again. The long-term impacts on marketing campaigns and measurement are still fairly unclear, but there are several ways to stay on top of these changes.
What are we doing in advance of the deprecation of third-party cookies?
At Bench, we partner with the leading platforms in market that are set up for success in a post-cookie world. This includes:
What should brands and agencies do?
While the depreciation of the cookie presents a huge challenge to the ad tech industry and the way campaigns are run, it’s also an opportunity for change.
Talk to us about how we can address Google’s upcoming changes, and what the future may look like for your brand and your digital marketing campaigns.
Make sure to work on your first-party data strategies, clean up databases, ensure user consent when collecting data, and scale this to inform targeting media buying.
Test, learn and become comfortable with different targeting methods, and shift spend to channels that are not so dependent on cookies.
Get in touch with your Bench representative to talk through your action plan.