What the Latest Move by Google on Cookie Deprecation Really Means for Marketers

There are now 2 years to seek, test and implement cookieless strategies

Last month, Google made another announcement about its road map toward deprecating third-party cookies from Chrome.

It’s not the first time this year that Google dropped a major announcement about its identity strategy; in March, the company announced it would not support industry-unified IDs for ad buying. The rest of the industry is left having to once again figure out how to ride the waves.

But what does the latest change really mean, and how should marketers be altering their own strategy?

ICYMI: What did Google announce?

In a blog post on June 24, Google announced that it would be pushing back the deprecation of the third-party cookie in Chrome until late 2023—almost two years later than originally planned.

Publishers and advertisers will be expected to migrate to new addressability and measurement solutions starting late 2022, and then Chrome will phase out third-party cookie support in mid-to-late 2023. But all this will only happen after Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox solutions have been fully tested and deployed.

It’s thought to be mainly a response to the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into the possible anticompetitive impact of Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox. In addition to this, the European Commission recently announced an antitrust investigation that addresses Google’s Privacy Sandbox efforts.

U.S. states have joined in on an antitrust lawsuit, and brands have expressed concern. So, suffice it to say, Google is feeling the pressure to get its deprecation of cookies right on all counts—from addressability, privacy and trust standpoints—which is why it’s giving itself more time.

Should you change your marketing strategy?

In response to the longer timescales, it might be tempting for marketers and their partners to take their foot off the gas pedal when it comes to shifting their campaigns to cookieless strategies. But it’s important to note that this is a delay and not a change of direction, so it’s crucial to stay future-focused. It’s also important to understand that current identity solutions were evolved very rapidly and don’t work that well. Two years can go very fast in the world of advertising, and third-party cookie availability will continue to be squeezed in the meantime.

The future of online advertising will still rely on a combination of authenticated and anonymous solutions, both of which will be crucial for the next two years, and then fundamental when Google does make the change. While the delay gives marketers and the industry more space and time to test, build and iterate, marketers should continue to focus on evaluating both authenticated and anonymous solutions in parallel to cookie strategies through 2022.

For brands, this means considering your first-party data strategy and having a plan B if you don’t intend to invest in first-party data. For both agencies and brand marketers, it’s important to push forward in investing in the right partnerships that can provide informed, scalable and flexible anonymous targeting across both the open and closed web. This can mean ensuring you have access to the right demand-side platforms and talent who can use them efficiently and the right data science experts to connect disparate datasets from contextual partners, publisher groups, graphs, cookieless channels and beyond.

What’s the potential in cookieless strategies?

Rather than viewing cookieless strategies as a privacy compliance box-checking strategy, marketers should see the opportunities available as a way to optimize performance. Early testing is already showing cookieless strategies either enhance or outperform those that focus on cookies for several reasons.

First, while cookies only last for days, the more persistent identifiers that are used in new authenticated methodologies, such as hashed emails, are persistent for decades. This means less audience erosion and, therefore, more reach. And because the same authenticated ID mechanisms are being adopted across the entire open supply chain, no cookie syncing is required, so there is less latency and audience drop-off between partners.

Second, contextual innovations far outstrip the old URL methodologies of the early industry days. Predictive behavioral science and deeper understanding of what content can show about a consumer have created solutions much more precise and insightful than a device ID with an attached set of identity keywords.

The delay by Google gives marketers the opportunity to use these new and improved methods alongside cookies and in environments like Safari and Firefox for the next two years. This means you’ll have the best of both worlds—and the ability to directly compare strategies that can help with a test-and-learn approach to optimize in the interim.

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This story first appeared in the July 26, 2021, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.