Buyers Can't Test Privacy Sandbox APIs in Google's Ad Platform DV360

There is no user interface for buyers on Google's DSP to test Google's cookie alternative solutions

Despite efforts to push industry adoption of cookie alternative proposals in Privacy Sandbox, Google’s demand-side platform, Display & Video 360, has not offered its clients any easy way to test Privacy Sandbox, two buyers told Adweek.

“We’re really wanting to test, but there’s no opportunity,” said one media buyer, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive industry relations.

Both buyers said there was no user interface to test Privacy Sandbox proposals directly, and Google representatives had not given them definitive answers about when a UI for testing on DV360 would develop. DV360 is run as a separate business and by separate teams from Google Chrome and Privacy Sandbox.

Google has promised to deprecate cookies by the end of this year, a process it started for 1% of Chrome users at the beginning of January. Whether Google can complete its cookie deprecation plan on schedule and offer its Privacy Sandbox solutions widely partly depends on approval from the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority later this year.

The CMA said in April 2023 that it is “keen to encourage firms to test the Privacy Sandbox tools … so that we can assess wider market impacts.”

Last year, Google announced that it was offering a limited number of grants to supply-side platforms and DSPs to test Privacy Sandbox. As one of the largest DSPs, DV360 has a role to play in this testing process.

A tool for other companies to use?

Google said it is not offering scaled testing for the buy-side in its ads platform, adding that by testing Sandbox application-programming interfaces on global slices of traffic instead, it can generate learnings more applicable to its whole customer base. Advertising providers and developers, however, can use the APIs in their products and services.

“Buyers don’t need to take direct action to test within Google ad platforms, but they can take recommended steps to prepare for third-party cookie deprecation and help inform our learnings,” said a spokesperson.

But this rankles some buyers, who want the opportunity and visibility to be able to test the old and new technologies.

The fact that other ad-tech firms are testing Privacy Sandbox means that the buy side can still test even if DV360 is not making it easy.

But it’s a discouraging sign for the efficacy of Privacy Sandbox that DV360 is making it hard to test the technology of its parent company, said Robert Webster, global vice president of strategy at CvE, whose brand clients are working to test Privacy Sandbox with Adform.

“It is bad [that] Google’s own can’t test,” Webster said. “Privacy Sandbox is just a smokescreen; a subpar tool for other companies to use.”

A struggle for all DSPs

To be fair, the collection of solutions in Privacy Sandbox, to some extent, represents a new paradigm for how digital advertising works, especially the Protected Audience API, where ad auctions happen on a browser and not the ad server.

DSP RTB House is deploying over 60 employees to test Privacy Sandbox, Digiday reported. Reflecting the large technical lift required for ad-tech firms to test Privacy Sandbox, Google’s testing grants to SSPs and DSPs were as large as $5 million, Digiday reported separately.

Another major DSP, The Trade Desk, says it will test Privacy Sandbox, although CEO Jeff Green called the suite of tools “not innovative.”

This article was updated to clarify that Google offered grants to SSPs and DSPs.

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