Google Delays Third-Party Cookie Phase-out (Again)

Ad Industry News
Last updated: April 25, 2024 | by Aleesha Jacob
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This post was most recently updated on April 25th, 2024

In a move that surprises absolutely no one, Google has once again delayed the deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome. Originally slated for 2022, the phase-out has experienced multiple delays and will now likely occur in 2025. This latest delay highlights the ongoing challenges and complexities of shifting the digital advertising landscape away from third-party tracking. Let’s break down what this means for marketers.

The Illusion of Time

In January, Google began phasing out cookies for 1% of Chrome traffic. This offered a real-world testing ground for alternatives, yet many marketers hesitated. The belief that more time is available is an illusion. Waiting until a larger percentage of all Chrome traffic is cookie-less will lead to rushed strategies and less room for adaptation. Furthermore, browsers like Safari and Firefox provide valuable examples of post-cookie landscapes that could have guided testing efforts.

Why the Ongoing Delays?

The company realized that its initial plans to remove support for third party cookies across its products did not allow enough time for development and regulatory approval, as well as consultation with users and the public, and addressing any concerns with new technologies. Here are the main reasons for the pushback:

  • Industry Pushback: The advertising industry heavily relies on third-party cookies for targeted advertising and measurement. Google’s plan to phase them out has met with resistance, necessitating additional time to develop and test alternatives.
  • Regulatory Scrutiny: The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is closely monitoring Google’s transition plans to ensure fair competition in the digital advertising space. This regulatory pressure adds a layer of complexity and may require Google to make adjustments.
  • Privacy Sandbox Concerns: Google’s Privacy Sandbox, a collection of proposed alternatives to third-party cookies, has faced criticism due to concerns about effectiveness and potential privacy implications. These concerns call for more time to refine the solutions.

Stagnation Despite Additional Time

While delays might seem like a win for those unprepared, the reality is that significant progress hasn’t materialized. The lack of substantial advancements and persistent concerns from bodies like the CMA, ICO, and IAB indicate that simply waiting won’t solve the fundamental problems.

What Does This Mean for the AdTech Industry?

Google Delays Third-Party Cookie Phase-out (Again) MonitizeMore

Despite the delays, the demise of third-party cookies is coming. But you need to start making the necessary preparations and test third-party cookie alternatives now.

  • Focus on First-Party Data: The future of digital monetization lies in first-party data – information collected directly by businesses from their customers. Prioritize strategies to build robust first-party data relationships, such as customer loyalty programs, email lists, and website engagement.
  • Zero-Party Data Revolution: Zero-party data is information that customers intentionally and proactively share with a brand—is the future. Focus on building transparent, value-driven customer relationships to collect this highly valuable data.
  • ID Bridging Solutions: Investigate and experiment with ID bridging solutions that can connect disparate data sets without relying on third-party cookies. These solutions often involve collaboration between publishers, advertisers, and technology platforms.
  • Alternative Tracking Solutions: Explore alternative tracking solutions like Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposals (FLoC, Topics API) and industry-specific identifier solutions. Stay updated on their development and testing.

Third-party cookies being withdrawn?

Google feels that the amount of user data that has been collected by cookies, both historically and on a day-to-day basis, has eroded trust. In their press release, they quote a survey by the Pew Research Center that found 72% of people felt that ‘almost all’ of their online activity was tracked by tech firms or advertisers, and 81% felt that the risks of having this data being stored outweighed the benefits.

Google has found that widespread blocking of cookies by a significant proportion of users has led to advertisers and their developers using other techniques that are potentially more invasive, using identifiers on their browsers to ‘match’ behavior in one place to behavior elsewhere. This cannot be cleared or deleted in the same way as a cookie, giving users less control of what is stored about them.

On the other hand, the easy and blanket blocking of cookies drastically reduces the effectiveness of online targeted advertising, leading to reduced ad spends and lower revenue for publishers. This, in turn, impacts their ability to create new content and display it in new formats, what Google calls the ‘vibrant web’.

The Future of Advertising Post-Cookies

According to Google, other tech firms are developing direct replacements for cookies that identify users. Google has committed not to tracking individuals across the web or using trackers in their products; instead, it uses APIs that prevent tracking and provide targeted results for advertisers.

The third-party cookie phase-out might cause some short-term disruption, but ultimately, it’s a step towards a more privacy-centric digital advertising ecosystem. This shift pushes marketers to:

  • Build Trust: Prioritize customer consent and transparency in data collection and usage. This will establish stronger customer relationships.
  • Contextual Targeting: Re-explore contextual advertising techniques – placing ads based on website content and keywords instead of individual user tracking.
  • Innovate and Adapt: Embrace new approaches to audience targeting, measurement and experiment with emerging technologies.

Google Delays Third-Party Cookie Phase-out (Again) MonitizeMore

The Impending Antitrust Trial

Adding to the uncertainty, Google’s September antitrust trial could drastically reshape the industry. The outcome has the potential to directly impact the future of third-party cookies in Chrome. This impending decision demands that publishers proactively explore alternatives, regardless of any specific deadlines from Google.

Why You Can’t Afford to Wait:

  • A History of Missed Opportunities: Delays have offered chances to test, learn, and adapt, yet they’ve gone largely underutilized.
  • Regulatory Scrutiny Isn’t Going Away: Persistent issues with the Privacy Sandbox and broader industry concerns aren’t likely to disappear, even with more time.
  • Competitive Vulnerability: Proactive competitors will gain an edge as they adopt new strategies, leaving hesitant businesses behind.
  • Antitrust Uncertainty: Preparing for multiple potential outcomes mitigates the risk of being caught off-guard by the trial’s results.

Conclusion

The end of third-party cookies is inevitable. The delays present a pivotal moment for marketers—an opportunity to break free from outdated reliance on third-party data and to establish sustainable, customer-centric advertising practices. Proactive action paves the way for success in the cookieless future.

Adapting is part of the programmatic industry, and with access to a Google Certified Publishing Partner, you always stay put and keep your ad revenue safe. If you currently don’t have a monetization partner, make sure to test out MonetizeMore’s award-winning solutions. We’ve helped 1500+ publishers achieve their ad revenue potential, and are a Google Certified Publishing Partner with a team ready to assist you!

Scale your revenue for the long term by getting started here!

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