09/04/2024 | insights

The Cookieless Present: What It Means for Advertisers and Why Now is the Time to Get Ahead

In June 2021, Google announced they would be phasing out support of third-party cookies (3PC) in their Chrome Browser1 Back then they had a 65% share of the market2 – a commanding share that they still hold to this day3.

After many delays and shifts, in December 20234 Google finally told the world they would be blocking 3PC in 1% of browsers from Jan 2024, with a view to having complete blocking in H224. Cookies are the building blocks in the architecture of the internet and so this announcement has gathered a lot of attention, from Oxford University5, to Forbes6 to grocers7.

However, the other browsers are way ahead of Google here, with Safari blocking 3PC by default in 20208 and Firefox blocking third party cookies by default in April 20239.

This process is running in parallel to regional and country level regulation of the digital world, whether it is GDPR, the Digital Markets Act, the Digital Services Act or the Data Governance Act10 in the EU, CCPA in the US11 or the APPI in Japan12, the world is rapidly moving to a consumer choice based data eco system.

We at WPP have been far ahead of the market in our cookieless approach. For example, we have a federated learning cookieless audience technology called Resolve, a comprehensive post-cookieless readiness program built in a joint initiative with Google13, and an advanced personalisation platform called Create.

The Reality Of The Situation

We know that third-party cookies going away is not new news, with the attention in the market coming from the fact that it is Google finally taking the step to remove 3PCs from their browser and provide alternative mechanisms for their products that advertisers and publishers across the globe rely on.

Along with Google’s 3PC deprecation, global data regulation means that consumers are given far more choice in what data they share, what data can be collected (and by whom) and what identifiers can be used to track them. The key winners here will be brands and publishers that have large first party data sets and content that they can use to target ads on – for example retailers like Amazon and Wallmart, and large publishers like The New York Times and Ozone.

To move forward at pace in 2024 we have to separate the short-term buzz in market around Google’s specific actions from the industry level implications of cookies finally disappearing across all tech platforms.

Google Implications

The long-term implications detailed above are often – but not exclusively – built in Google’s systems and so in response they are building the Privacy Sandbox14 as their way of evolving beyond 3PC in a privacy first and regulator friendly way.

The Privacy Sandbox is a group of 30 proposals covering a wide range of use cases, including:

  • Topics API15 – designed to preserve privacy while allowing a browser to share information with third parties about a user’s interests for targeting purposes
  • Protected Audiences API16 – designed to allow retargeting and custom audiences without sharing user information to third parties
  • Attribution Reporting API17 – enabling advertisers to measure on site conversions from ad clicks, ad views, social networks or search engine results pages
  • Bounce Tracking Mitigations18 – blocking technical workarounds to 3PC deprecation that doesn’t align with regulation

The Privacy Sandbox is still being built and iterated, but feedback from industry bodies is that it does not fill the gaps that are being left by 3PCs and so it will evolve throughout 2024.

Industry Implications

The long term, industry level implications are focused around two key areas:

Audience Targeting

  • Many audience data targeting partners rely on 3PCs to track people as they browse across different sites and publishers. With 3PCs going away, many of the traditional sales houses for audiences won’t be able to group people into interests and behaviours for advertisers to buy against.
  • This is the same for retargeting, where an advertiser uses a third party to target people who have been to their site, which will be almost impossible without the cookie

Tracking

  • Many ad tracking systems rely on cookies for matching an ad exposure and a click on an ad to actions on a client web page. With the cookie going away it will be difficult to those two together, making live data measurement, frequency management and optimization extremely problematic

So why is now the time to get ahead?

Back in the 2000s, phone design was very experimental as manufacturers balanced aesthetics with utility to find what consumers wanted. Squares, flips, qwerty keyboards, tracking balls – nothing was off limits.

This is what 2024 is going to look like for the architecture of digital advertising, where regulation is forcing experimentation from old and new, big and small digital companies.

Now is the time to plan for evolving your approach to audience targeting and tracking, based on a series of questions:

  • Are you privacy first, or surveillance first?
  • Do you want to maintain the old way, or build the new?

We at Resolve believe in being privacy first and building for the new future. We build models from people’s behaviours, without tracking IDs, meaning privacy stays protected. These behaviours are then bought across thousands of publishers in uncontested impressions, giving you incremental reach in premium environments using data you never had access to before.

If you’re interested in building for a privacy first future, speak to us at Resolve.tech.

Sources

  1. blog.google | An updated timeline for Privacy Sandbox milestones
  2. blog.google | An updated timeline for Privacy Sandbox milestones
  3. statcounter.com | Browser Market Share Worldwide
  4. blog.google | The next step toward phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome
  5. reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk | The Cookiepocalypse: Why first-party data is going to matter to your newsroom
  6. forbes.com | 2024 Is The Year Of The ‘Cookiepocalypse’: How Advertisers Can Prepare
  7. thegrocer.co.uk | Google’s ‘cookiepocalypse’ spells opportunity for supermarket giants
  8. webkit.org | Full Third-Party Cookie Blocking and More
  9. blog.mozilla.org | Firefox rolls out Total Cookie Protection by default to more users worldwide
  10. edri.org | EU alphabet soup of digital acts: DSA, DMA and DGA
  11. oag.ca.gov | California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
  12. dlapiperdataprotection.com | The Act on the Protection of Personal Information ("APPI")
  13. groupm.com | GroupM launches comprehensive post-cookie readiness program testing Google's Privacy Sandbox
  14. developers.google.com | What is the Privacy Sandbox?
  15. developers.google.com | Topics API overview
  16. developers.google.com | Protected Audience API
  17. developers.google.com | Attribution Reporting
  18. developers.google.com | Bounce tracking mitigations
  19. digiday.com | IAB Tech Lab presents Google with Privacy Sandbox gap analysis following Annual Leadership Meeting
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