Google’s announcement is exactly the wakeup call the industry needs to highlight several key facts as we transform to a consumer friendly internet.
On June 24th 2021, Google announced it was delaying its self-imposed timeline to drop support for third-party tracking cookies (3P cookies) from 2022 to 2023. This change has caused confusion among advertisers and technology players around the world. However the underlying trends that initially drove 3P cookies to their demise are as stronger than ever.As Vinay Goel, Director of Privacy Engineering at Chrome stated that “We need to move at a responsible pace. This will allow sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions, continued engagement with regulators, and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services.”

So let’s review some critical details of what has – and still is – happening in the industry: 

  1. The only change that was announced was the timing, which means that Google is still deprecating cookies. As Google’s Director of Privacy states, the pause in deprecating cookies until 2023 is a result of pressure from the industry, expressing the need for more “time to evaluate the new technologies, gather feedback and iterate to ensure they meet our goals for both privacy and performance.”
  2. Consumer sentiment has not changed so the underlying force is still in play.
  3. Regulations including GDPR, CCPA and a handful of other guidelines are already enacted to protect the rights of the consumers. Additionally, there are hundreds of regulations being evaluated to change the way the industry treats consumer data.
  4. While Google is slowing their rollout, several major players are not. Apple and Firefox maintain large browser market shares and have both dropped 3P cookie tracking. The percentages in the US alone, speak for themselves.
US stats:

Browser Market Share Desktop Mobile Tablet
Chrome 50% 39% 32%
Safari and Firefox 40% 55% 45%

How does this impact advertisers and their agencies? 

  1. Consumer expectations remain the same. They want the rights to browse the web in a privacy friendly environment and advertisers need to keep focus on retaining their customers and ensuring a privacy friendly environment.
  2. Data legislations are here to stay. Why? When Google first announced deprecating 3P cookies, it was due to the severe consumer backlash that they were facing, and this is still a problem that exists today. Let’s not forget the infamous case where Google had to pay a 50 million penalty for collecting personal data without providing any transparency. With GDPR landing in 2018, the likes of CCPA and other legislations follow suit, as they strive to protect consumers. Advertisers should not push these regulations to the curb, because consumer and data privacy will continue to be major themes in years to come, “beyond California’s CCPA, see Brazil’s LGPD, plus developments in Canada, Australia, India and a clutch of American states,” according to Danny Bluestone, CEO of Cyber-Duck.
  3. Lastly, while Google’s domination attracted headlines, Apple does not fall behind, who in recent news has dropped 2P Cookie support along with Firefox. The results from Apple’s release of the ATT framework in IOS 14.5 indicates that less than 4% of users are opting in to tracking across web advertising (desktop, mobile web and tablet). According to Stetic, the combined percent of the largest browsers still make up over 50% of the marketer share. Advertisers must consider that Apple’s market share alone contains a coveted audience target and their lack of support for cookies is a critical point that can be overlooked.

Our take:

Google’s announcement is exactly the wakeup call the industry needs to highlight several key factors, and is pivotal as we transform to a consumer friendly internet.

  • Consumer expectations for privacy are high and replacing the 3P cookie with another identifier does not comply with the spirit of GDPR, CCPA and other regulations in place or under consideration around the globe.
  • Marketers are at risk of missing half of all consumers as a result of the fragmented state of browsers

To best meet current and future privacy regulations and increase digital performance, agencies should immediately move forward with innovative solutions.

  1. Advertisers should leverage the unique window provided by the Google delay to use comparative datasets between 3P cookies and ‘new era cookieless solutions’ to identify a targeting approach that performs best for their brand.
  2. Identify partners and rapidly implement a transition strategy to create look-alike models and other key learnings that can be used as a baseline for the future.
  3. Immediately extend targeting strategies to engage with the 50% of consumers using browsers that do not support 3P cookies.

While this announcement may have caught the industry off guard, it does spotlight that major  changes are coming and it is important for advertisers to immediately prepare for the future. Thinking strategically about marketer needs, testing partners, and building on the learnings from these tests will be essential when shaping a performance driven,  consumer friendly internet for all.