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Updated 4th August 2021 by Sarla Fernando

Drawing out the end of third-party cookies must not delay marketers

January 2020: Remember when in an announcement about building a more private web, Google outlined the two-year timing of its intention to phase out support of third-party cookies in Chrome?  A few weeks later (due to a global pandemic) Australia went into its first lockdown.

The two events have no connection whatsoever, however in a mere coincidence of timing, Google’s recent announcement concerning its delay in the deprecation of third-party cookies, once again preceded a Sydney lockdown.

The only reason to bring the pandemic into an article about a delay in the change in browser identifiers is that the current ‘lockdown’ highlights the risk of complacency when people don’t see an imminent or real risk on the horizon.

Google’s delay in the deprecation of cookies will be a temptation for some marketers to put off plans they started when they thought third party cookies were becoming obsolete imminently.

This would be a mistake. Google may be delaying its own timeline in phasing out support of third party cookies in Chrome, but Apple and Mozilla  have already taken this action on their respective browsers Safari and Firefox.

Also important to consider is that Apple’s iOS 14.5+ changes have been implemented, with more to come with iOS15.  Android is making similar changes with Android 13. So, with or without Google’s delays, a replacement for 3rd party cookies and Mobile Advertising IDs (MAIDS) is needed and marketers need to be aware of the various options available to them.

Regardless of Google’s exact timings, regulators globally will keep shaking up transparency, privacy and accountability in digital advertising practices. Marketers can’t afford to delay taking action to position themselves for the changes that a privacy-first world increasingly will demand.

Don’t be confused, this announcement by Google is a delay, not a denial of what will come. Cookies will change. First party cookies will stay, but third-party cookies will continue to become a thing of the past.

Marketers need to move the third-party cookie from its starring role in their marketing plan to being no more than an extra, before losing it altogether. There is a recasting that may need to take place in many a marketing plan and this needs to be assessed now. If you are not on this journey already, then you will need to movie rapidly.
The following elements are already changing:

  • Tracking - cookie (and device) targeting capabilities is changing so any reliance on old models needs to be addressed.
  • Targeting/ re-targeting  - the way in which marketers build their target audiences for advertising must be assessed to identify the impact and relevance of ads served to users.  Personalisation based on third party cookies may not be the right option.
  • Measurement - the new set of challenges advertisers, publishers and tech vendors who make money from online behavioural advertising (OBA), attribution, web analytics, testing and personalisation, and their understanding.
  • Revenue -  marketers will need to readjust and manage budget allocations between advertising channels as value shifts with the various offerings and capabilities. Awareness of alternative offerings will build ROI efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Compliance - the regulatory landscape is constantly changing, developing and expanding. Marketers need to stay up-to-date with the laws, their legal commitments and platforms.
  • Partnerships – this extension gives marketers time to better understand who and how to partner with their agencies, publishers, platforms and tech partners. Asking the right questions will help them identify reliability, skillset and capability to protect their brands within the shifting landscape of the digital industry;
  • First Party Data – as 3rd party cookies and mobile advertising identifiers phase out, the need to have access to first party data will be key to long-term survival. Don’t wait two years to build out your First Party data, you wont have the history and authentication required to test the various models that will be available to embrace in this new world order.

Platform announcements indicating change and timelines is not unusual. Google may have  pulled back the deprecation of third party cookies, but if you look around the market, identifier deprecation is happening anyway. These adjustments by the global platforms  and the changing regulations happening worldwide are a reaction to legitimate concern from consumers. The businesses that acknowledge that and make adjustments accordingly will be the ones that remain in the game.

As regulators, consumers, and the industry itself, challenge themselves in the way the digital marketing industry is evolving, we can be sure of one thing. Changes in technology solutions, compliance and consumer expectations are almost guaranteed. We must stay alert and active in future-proofing our marketing plans.

Proactive marketers will be the ones who will survive and thrive. This is the time for marketers to stay across the announcements, take the wins where they can (more time allows for a more measured approach) but don’t allow procrastination to creep in.

 

The Google Third Party Cookie Announcement 

Google has decided to delay the phase out of 3rd party cookies at least until 2023. This extends the life of 3rd party cookies by two years along with a 90 day phase-out period as agreed by Google with the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority.

What are the new timing milestones?

  • Google expects key APIs will be ready for adoption in late 2022;
  • There is an estimated nine-month migration period (estimated to begin late 2022 and last until mid 2023);
  • Begin gradually phasing out third-party cookies in mid 2023, ending support entirely in late 2023.

 

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