Marketing experts warn it's 'not time to slow down' amid Google's cookiepocalypse delay
Cookies won’t be wiped from Chrome until 2024, per a new announcement out of Google’s Privacy Sandbox. The news spells good fortune for many marketers, developers and publishers, who will now have more time to innovate and adapt as they pour resources into developing alternative privacy-preserving ad solutions. Even so, the industry is still feeling the heat.
Marketers say it's no time to lose focus on innovating privacy-preserving tech / Adobe Stock
Google Chrome’s elimination of third-party cookies — the tech that’s used to track internet users’ behavior across the web for targeted advertising purposes — has officially been pushed back to 2024.
The move will not only allow Google’s Privacy Sandbox team more time to hone new privacy-centric APIs, but will also provide developers and advertisers with a longer runway for establishing their own effective privacy-preserving technologies for the future of advertising and information brokering.
Thus far, media and advertising players are pleased by the decision — but warn against the risk of remaining stagnant in this moment.
"The future of [digital] identity lies in the ability to leverage direct, consumer-consented sources and to be smarter about signals that are not attached to a consumer’s identity,” Yahoo’s chief business officer Iván Markman tells The Drum. He says that the postponement of cookie deprecation will provide the industry with “more time to test and learn.”
Even so, he suggests that innovating earlier and faster will render stronger results for advertisers. “Adapting solutions today brings greater reach across all inventory — with or without IDs.”
Some experts understand advertisers’ delight at the news that they have more time to adapt to a cookieless future, but are more cynical of the real-world benefits of the decision. “While the industry is rejoicing right now, this continuing purgatory is actually bad for the market,” says Shiv Gupta, managing partner at U of Digital, a digital marketing education firm. “It will create more uncertainty, which will lead to more confusion, which will lead to even more ID solutions with no clear end in sight.”
In fact, Gupta predicts that the extension will only enable advertisers to continue exploiting individual user-level data in order to make a profit. “It's an addressability and privacy purgatory that is not allowing the ad industry to make progress in other, more meaningful areas. It's breathing life into grifters that are looking to make a buck on an unstable situation as opposed to creating valuable marketing tools.”
Though he’s cynical that the delayed cookiepocolypse will light a meaningful fire under most advertisers’ backsides, he nonetheless urges them to evolve — and evolve at speed. "Smart marketers and publishers should look to diversify their approach to identity and work with partners that can deliver cookieless results now instead of [focusing on] aspirational solutions. They should move quickly and make flexible decisions that don't tie them into big commitments, given the prolonged uncertainty."
Others echo the advice that this not become a moment to fall asleep at the wheel. “Google’s continuance of third-party cookies into 2024 shouldn’t prevent the marketplace from pushing forward with taking steps to future-proof their business and get into market with privacy-preserving solutions,” says Jessica Simpson, senior vice-president of global solutions consulting and verified technology at Publicis Media.
Reenforcing the urgency of the matter are a number of privacy developments happening outside of the cookie debate. “Over 25% of the global population is subject to privacy regulation — and that is set to increase threefold by 2023,” Simpson says. “In the US, California is refreshing [its privacy legislation] the California Consumer Protection Act, and there is work to release a [federal] bipartisan privacy bill.” Plus, she points out, Apple’s privacy-focused changes are already disrupting how business is done in the mobile, desktop and connected TV ecosystems.
“Now is the time to get ahead of the curve with testing not just cookie replacement solutions, but true AI-based targeting, value-led data acquisition and client value-led measurement solutions. Reform is coming.”
It’s also worth noting that this isn’t the first time Google has switched up previously established plans for cookies. Last year, the tech giant postponed cookie deprecation to 2023 — back from an earlier deadline of 2022. “The goal posts have moved twice. The goal posts will move again — guaranteed,” Gupta predicts. “If Google is forced to spin off their adtech businesses before the deadline [amid ongoing antitrust efforts aimed at the tech giant], perhaps the deadline will be moved earlier."