Written by
Alex Hawkesworth

10 Aug, 2022

Google delays cookie deprecation again. Now what?

Google announced another delay to Chrome’s planned cookie deprecation a week ago, as they struggle to deliver a solution that balances consumer privacy with effective identity measurement to replace 3rd party cookies.

Many industry players let out a sigh of relief at the news, thankful to be granted more time to test and deploy alternative solutions to replace the decades-old identifier - regardless of the reality that Google properties (Chrome & Android) are essentially the last island of pre-GDPR tracking.

Can anyone explain why the industry is so focused on a single (relatively) dwindling fragment of the AdTech landscape when they take a moment to consider it? When Apple announced their Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) programme, back in 2017, third-party cookies were certainly the most discussed topic. But a huge amount has changed in five years: Mobile spend has continued to outstrip desktop, CTV/OTT and DooH are delivering huge growth trajectories and we’ve seen the emergence of many new identity solutions. All of these developments overshadow the legacy browser-based identifier and its waning value to advertisers.

And yet the deprecation of Chrome-based cookies (which today represent <20% of total digital advertising spend) is still lodged in collective marketing minds as the watershed moment for advertisers to call time on the old guard era of identity measurement. As Richard Lloyd, Fifty’s Chairman, pointed out, "The defining feature of the data-driven media ecosystem right now is its uncertainty and there are so many other factors at play; ongoing question marks over TCF compliance with GDPR, the future of device IDs in mobile app post Apple's ATT, et cetera. It's high time we moved on from fixating about whether or not Chrome will support third-party cookies today, next year or at any point in the future…”

The elephant in the room (and this elephant is certainly no longer a calf…) is that the billion (and counting) most valuable global digital consumers, for some businesses their core target market, are already unable to be measured or addressed using traditional methods across web, mobile apps and, to a varying extent, social media thanks to Apple and other technology changes.

The innovations that are emerging in response to this sea-change are able to reach and understand this growing audience of key digital natives, but they need to consider some of the new factors of this privacy era. Specifically, the factors are: what the technology layers (browsers, operating systems, etc) can enable; what regulation (GDPR, ADPPA, etc) will allow; and how an informed public might react.

While changes across these first two appear to be slowing, public awareness and concern around whole-scale tracking practices are dramatically increasing. Fifty monitoring shows that, currently, over 65% of online discussion around “cookies” (yes, it was qualified from the foodstuff) is from non-industry consumers. Along with this surge in interest, we can see sentiment spiking negative around both cookie delay events, in contrast to the positive response of the industry. Josh Tompkins, Head of Insight at Fifty commented “In essence, we are now seeing an increased awareness, understanding and contempt for cookies across a variety of diverse audiences, which really captures the need for change.”

But what change suits all the stakeholders in the industry?

Some adtech platforms, separate to Google, have already developed their response to the loss of unchecked consumer tracking through email-linked ID ecosystems like Trade Desk’s UID2.0 or LiveRamp ATS. These solutions are essentially rebuilding cookie tracking within the “inconvenience” of Privacy Regulation, by informing consumers and asking for consent. This offers potential to work within browser policies but with pressing questions around the legality of data sharing using the TCF 2.0 and the layperson’s growing distrust of tracking, will it provide long term resilience to advertisers?

ID-less solutions, like contextual targeting, are expectedly finding that the ebb and flow of interest from brands and agencies correlates to Google’s announcements, but they do offer resilience to all of these factors - No ID, no tracking. But, considering the almost exponential increase in data in all areas of our society and tools like machine learning and quantum computing, it raises the question whether individual tracking is really necessary anymore.

Agreeing that the future lies in exploring new innovations, Richard Lloyd went on to say, “The direction of travel is clear and I'd argue that being able to operate effectively without third-party cookies (or any form of identifier for that matter) isn't just an aspiration for the future, but a necessary tool in any forward-thinking marketer's toolkit today."

At Fifty, we don’t feel that the Chrome announcement deserved the reaction that we saw in our peers. Protecting consumer privacy is at the heart of what we do. We have built a successful ID-free audience addressability solution, FiftyAurora, but the company can wait for Google to catch up. We look to deliver the best outcomes whether across programmatic, social or any digital channel. Our human intelligence allows us to understand where to find your consumers agnostic of whether IDs are present or not.

Fifty campaigns have been running both cookie/MAID-based tactics in parallel to FiftyAurora tactics to ensure that they are optimising based on how the ecosystem actually lies today. These campaigns blend both the anonymous and cookie-centric environments, guaranteeing that the entire audience can be activated in the most scalable, effective and responsible ways possible.

With the level of uncertainty in the long and short term - how do you regard Google's extra-time news- A welcome relief or an industry-wide oversight? If it's the latter, Fifty Technology offers smart marketers a smart solution.

To start preparing your business for the privacy-first era, get in touch with us at [email protected] or book a meeting directly with our team.

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