The indelible writing was on the wall. Just when Google shifted gears from positioning FLoC as a replacement for third-party tracking cookies to Topics API, things started smelling a little fishy.
FLoC’s origin trials raised a lot of concerns, and if what we’ve seen in the wild from USA Today’s 90-day test of Topics API is any indication, then that solution may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Since I don’t own a crystal ball, I’m not one to throw out predictions willy-nilly. But it was evident wasn’t it? Google was going to delay plans to eliminate third-party tracking cookies in Chrome. Their Privacy Sandbox head is saying it will take until the latter half of 2024 for an alternative to replace cookies, but we’ve been hearing rumblings from buyers that it could very well drag out until 2025.
If nothing else it gives more testing time to get things right (and hopefully comply with all privacy regulations across the globe), and for publishers who have yet to figure out their future-proofing strategies, this news should come as a sigh of relief. Maybe it’s a sign not to place all your bets on one horse.
Here eight ad tech execs share what this latest twist in the tale of the cookie’s eventual death means for Google and the ad tech ecosystem, as well as what we can expect to happen next.
Eric Hochberger, CEO and Co-Founder, Mediavine
The new timeline will provide additional opportunities for the programmatic industry to continue testing, collaborating and forging essential partnerships aimed at keeping the independent publisher profitable and the web free and open. For two years now, we’ve watched content creators use the Google deadline as an impetus to develop crucial first-party relationships with their readers through tools like Mediavine’s Grow, live today and in use by thousands of publishers. This gives them even more time to hone those relationships and make them meaningful.
Tal Chalozin, Co-Founder and CTO at Innovid
While there’s a big focus on the impact of cookies it’s clear that the big solution is a cross devices privacy safe identification solution which is hard and far from being solved. With the latest moves by media giants such as Netflix and Disney, it’s clear that streaming is where the puck is going when it comes to ad-supported content. Cookies will only impact browser-based content but are not a solution for the connected TV or any of the app world. I believe the push by Google is not only to allow the industry and Google themselves to find alternatives but to focus on the big challenge of solving cross-device and specifically CTV as a massive time spent device.
Field Garthwaite, CEO and Co-Founder, IRIS.TV
In streaming and CTV where there are no cookies, other approaches like clean rooms and video-level data are already being used to plan and target campaigns successfully. What’s missing in Connected TV, the fastest growing channel in advertising, is the ability to verify and measure outcomes with these new privacy-first signals. Regardless of the timing of Google phasing out cookies, privacy-by-design is becoming critical for all media buying.
Shiv Gupta, Managing Partner, U of Digital
Google’s need to fend off antitrust has clearly become more pressing for them than their need to appease privacy advocates and their desire to emulate Apple’s privacy-centric ethos. That is what is driving this. This continuing purgatory will help those that have kicked the can down the road and hurt those that have been testing and experimenting with cookie alternatives. Smart ad tech companies should continue to focus on flexibility and interoperability as it pertains to identity.
Eric Vreeland, VP, Marketing, People Data Labs
Google continues to delay the deprecation of cookies because, despite several rounds of warnings, the digital marketing industry still depends on the data they provide to target and personalize campaigns. But a cookieless future is inevitable, and this latest delay gives marketers another chance to consider what that future will look like. Fortunately, data-as-a-service vendors can provide an alternative today. Marketing tools powered by alternative data sources will allow businesses to continue reaching new customers and creating personalized messages and experiences without relying on cookies that track and surveil online behavior.
Jake Moskowitz, Head of the Emodo Institute & VP of Data Strategy, Emodo
This is just kicking the can down the road. Google alone increased its market cap by almost $100B today alone, and Facebook almost $25B. To give a sense for scale, eMarketer says there will be a grand total of $221B of digital marketing spend overall in the U.S. in 2023. When you consider the market cap increases of every other ad tech stock, this seems like an overreaction if all we’re doing is kicking the can down the road for one more year. If anything, it proves how massive an issue this is, whether third-party cookies on Chrome exist or not. Overall, firms should make sure they have tools in their toolbox that allow them to achieve scale and performance, no matter what Google does.
James Prudhomme, CRO, Optable
Although Chrome remains to be the last browser to still allow third-party cookies by default, over the past two years we’ve seen publishers taking audience segmentation into their own hands. Today, whether cookies are available or not, the use of data clean rooms already allows for precision and performance in a privacy-safe manner.
Chris Harihar, Partner & Head of AdTech, Crenshaw Communications
This is also a major PR challenge for Google, who’s damned if they do and damned if they don’t. With every delay or decision made, Google simply feeds into monopoly concerns from regulators who already believe they have too much control of the market. Kicking the can down the road is likely the best decision they have for that reason. Candidly, regulators should spend more time scrutinizing Apple, who is making unilateral decisions about the direction of the ad ecosystem with their changes to mobile IDs on iOS.