Google has announced sweeping policy changes which will spell a dramatic shakeup of the online advertising market. The industry giant’s decision to withdraw support for third party cookies in its web browser Chrome - and across its suite of dominant marketing tools - will bring it in line with its major competitors, Safari and Firefox. However, given Chrome’s commanding share of the browser market, and Google’s overall position in the industry, the effects of its latest decisions will be unprecedented.
Brands, publishers, agencies and vendors are already bracing themselves for the impact of ‘cookie deprecation’ across Google properties. Over on Safari and Firefox, successive policy updates in recent years have caused major disruption to established cookie-based practices. Essentially, the loss of measurement and targeting capabilities, which form the basis of many marketers’ attribution strategies, prompted many advertisers to pull their spend on these browsers.
Third party cookies have formed the backbone of user tracking and measuring the outcomes of ads since the early 90s. Media buyers and owners alike rely on these third party tracking tools for measuring and optimising campaign performance. The wider ecosystem of tools - such as Google Analytics - that the online advertising world has come to rely upon for serving personalised ads will no longer function as it has done historically.
Existing methods depend heavily on the collection of unconsented user information, in the form of ‘third party data’, which is then sourced, aggregated and traded by various companies for the purposes of audience targeting. Against a backdrop of growing demand for more privacy-centric practices in online advertising, and a more ethical approach to the collection and use of ‘personally identifiable information’ in general, this all signals a fundamental (and many would say overdue) reset for online advertising.
Shifting public attitudes and ongoing regulation in Europe and the US (with other regions following suit) is ramping up pressure on companies to require some form of user consent before their personal data can be accessed and used for commercial purposes. And ultimately, this ideal is just not compatible with many existing practices.
In the first of our series of lessons on Cookie Deprecation, we examine the difference between first party and third party cookies, what they’re used for, and why this doesn’t mean the end of analytics data or targeted advertising online. We explore why cookie technology has become much more widespread in recent years, and why it’s come under increased scrutiny. And crucially, despite the prevailing uncertainty as alternative solutions are developed, we identify where and how brands must begin taking proactive steps to prepare for a future that emphasises consented, first party data.
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