There’s More Time Before the Cookie Crumbles – But Don’t Rest Yet

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Doug Hall
VP of Data Services and Technology

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Call it déjà vu: Google Chrome has delayed third-party cookie deprecation to 2024. According to Google, there is a “need for more time to evaluate and test the new Privacy Sandbox technologies before deprecating third-party cookies in Chrome.”

We might speculate as to other reasons why the deadline has changed, but we can be confident that—whether from a privacy or commercial perspective—the proposed solutions haven’t met expectations. This is actually encouraging because we should expect a 2024 solution that doesn’t compromise on privacy or commercial performance.

But what does this mean for digital marketing? What changes? How do we position ourselves with this delay? There are things we know and things we don’t, but we can prepare for both. And one thing is for certain, the worst possible tactic is doing nothing. 

Here’s what we do know:

  • Marketing on Google owned and operated properties (Search, YouTube and Maps) remains unchanged given its use of first party, rather than third party cookies.
  • Audience (re)targeting, measurement and attribution will change, but we don’t know when or how.
  • Life goes on within walled gardens, but with an increased focus on the value of first-party data across industry leaders like Google, Meta, Amazon, LinkedIn and TikTok.
  • Elsewhere in the industry, there’s an expectation that the adoption of so-called “solutions”—clean rooms, ID resolution, SaaS marketing clouds, contextual—will slow down.

We agree that increased first-party data focus is the best move for marketers and agencies. This is a gift that cements the foundation of fully consented first-party data as part of the overall data strategy. 

The postponement is not an excuse to just keep doing digital marketing as we’ve always done it.  That’s a “fat and happy” symptom and a one-way ticket to extinction. Indeed, any lost opportunity to explore and learn new avenues is a waste.  That’s not to say we need to spend this extra time trying to maintain the status quo. Embracing regulatory and tech change as a driver rather than a business impediment is a competitive advantage.  

Here’s a recap of the Death of the 3P cookie timeline:

  • 2018: DoubleClick ID files redacted
  • 2019: Privacy Sandbox is announced
  • 2020: Third-party cookie deprecation announced (targeting 2022) 
  • January 2021: Google commits to Privacy Sandbox and Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC)
  • March 2021: Google announces that it will not allow “alternate identifiers”
  • June 2021: Google announces Chrome will stop supporting 3P cookies by end of 2023
  • July 2022: Google Chrome has delayed 3P Cookie deprecation to 2024

How many more delays do we face? It doesn’t matter.  We’re already in a precarious situation that common sense says we don’t leave untouched.

One of the most recognizable personalities in the digital analytics industry, Avinash Kaushik, said, “Most browsers have allowed you to block third-party cookies since the dawn of the internet. A cluster of people (like me) have taken advantage of that option.” (Chrome is the last of the most popular browsers to have no restrictions on third-party data storage like cookies). “So your current third-party cookie tracking based audience and measurement at the minimum already has a signal quality degradation built in,” Kaushik goes on to say.

These are the unignorable signals of change. More than ever, be prepared.

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