February 5, 2020

Our Independent Agencies Weigh In on the Demise of Google Cookies

Written By: Angie Pascale

Google has announced they’ll be phasing out the use of third-party cookies on the Chrome browser over the next two years. Cookies are the foundation of programmatic advertising and invaluable for cross-channel marketing strategies and performance tracking. So, unsurprisingly, this news has marketers and brands scrambling to understand how this will affect their campaigns, and what they should be doing now to prepare. 

Perhaps also unsurprising, Google has not provided many details on what exactly will happen by 2022. For thoughts and answers from experts, we asked our independent agency partners around the world to weigh in. 

What exactly does it mean?

Google is removing third-party cookies from their Chrome browser in preparation for their Privacy Sandbox API. Individual user-level information will still be stored in their browser, but outside ad tech companies will have to do an API call to the Privacy Sandbox if they want to use that data. The ad techs will receive data for personalization and measurement, but will not receive any specific user-level information.

In short, this means one-on-one targeting and messaging will no longer be available. Conversion tracking will, however, still be available. As will targeting groups with similar behaviors or interest, in theory.

Google’s Doubleclick business and Google Display Ads will be impacted by this change. Publishers using Google Ads to sell their ads will also be affected. Yet, ads served on Google.com and YouTube.com will be unaffected for the most part, because they run on first-party cookies. Also unaffected--media companies, publishers, large ecommerce sites, social networks, and any company or site that has their own audiences and direct-to-consumer relationships. These companies may actually come out on top.

Did you anticipate this change?

News of this change didn’t come as a shock to most of our agency partners. Other browsers have already undergone similar initiatives. “Apple began this trend in late 2018 with ITP, which really got teeth with ITP 2.1 in 2019, shortly after Firefox announced a similar initiative, ETP. Microsoft also followed suit, so in some ways it seemed inevitable that Chrome would have to too,” said Partner Agency Cornett in Lexington, Kentucky, USA. 

The real source of this change lies not with the browsers, but rather with protecting consumer privacy. GDPRCCPA, “Off-Facebook Activity” and other recent initiatives allow consumers to have more control of their information and force companies to be more transparent about how they collect that data. “Consumer confidence and trust has been driving this for a while,” said Partner Agency DirectionGroup in London, England. 

What does this mean for you, your brands or any vendors you use?

Agency partners across the globe shared that they’re reevaluating everything from strategies and budgets to platforms and vendors. Many partners are exploring new-old approaches, such as contextual advertising and more varied media mixes. “We will have to adjust at the beginning,” said Agency Partner lg2 in Montreal, Canada. “It will force an entire industry to rethink exposure vs relationship.”

While this will create some changes for our independent agencies in regards to the services they offer, how they structure online advertising campaigns, and which tools they use for management and tracking, those changes may end up being a good thing. 

“For our company and our brands this only continues to strengthen our value proposition,” said Mintz + Hoke in Avon, Connecticut, USA. “We have always stressed to our clients that they need to first understand their audience needs and then apply technology to amplify. A lot of brands and agencies use technology to solve for things they don't know or understand. And sure, that's one way to test, learn and optimize. But, this same mentality can be applied by starting that process with offline research and then applying it to the technology.”

Plus, many agree that third-party data available today is unreliable, so the only thing that is truly going away is the fantasy of accuracy. “There will be much less bad data out there, right now much interest based targeting today is inaccurate so it will remove that illusion,” said Partner Cornett. 

What should brands do to prepare?

Since we don’t yet know exactly what will happen in 2022 or how the change will rollout, our agency partners suggest focusing on what you can control--you own data. “Focus more on [your] own 1st party data collection and the infrastructure to manage it," said Agency Partner Tombras in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. 

There are many ways to collect this data. Agency Partner Brownstein Group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA offered a few suggestions: “Send out incentivized surveys, require more comprehensive profiles...identify what data points are necessary for your business to operate, and make sure you have your own record of them.”

What other impacts will this change have for marketers and brands? How else are you preparing for it? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Written By: Angie Pascale