Update: What Google’s Cookie Removal Means for Advertisers

If you haven’t heard the news, Google has recently announced it will remove third-party cookies from Chrome by 2023. For advertisers, this is a pretty big deal. But while they may not be the first browser to make the move, it is by far the most popular one to do it — with more than 6 of every 10 people using Chrome to browse the internet.

So why do third-party cookies continue to crumble? How will the change affect campaigns? What does this all really mean in the long run? Here’s everything you need to know.

What Exactly are Third-Party Cookies?For those of you who don’t know, third-party cookies are one type of tracking technology that is used for the benefit of pulling analytics based on a consumer’s web activity to show relevant ads and information.

“Third-party cookies are basically small chunks of data regarding sites, pages, and products that you have visited that websites keep on your browser’s local storage,” Fabian Miranda, Senior Web Developer at Assemble explains. “This info can then be used by another site to customize the type of content they are offering to you as you browse.”

Here’s an example: let’s say you recently researched a couple of sports cars. Those sites are then going to store cookies (or data) on your browser’s storage, so then later that day or week when you go to Facebook or a news site, those cookies can then be read by the platform to show you specific ads featuring sports cars — just like the ones you looked at.

“So unlike first-party cookies which are used on your own domain or a single site, these cookies are collected and stored under a third-party domain, or one different than the user might currently be browsing.”

Why have Browsers Been Phasing These Cookies Out?The biggest motivator behind the removal of third-party cookies is protection of privacy. Users are not only demanding it, but they also want control and freedom of choice over how their data is used. For some users, that has meant blocking third-party cookies on their own, but even these personal decisions can have consequences impacting the ecosystem as a whole, which has forced browsers to start taking action.

“There have also been recent laws established in Europe and the US in regard to protecting online browsing privacy,” Fabian adds, “and cookies have been criticized. Organizations keep pushing to ban this type of tracking functionality as people feel it is too invasive.”

Just how invasive? Well, the type of personal data that third-party cookies can collect and store range from individual IP addresses, sensitive search history, specific details about devices to even private information about family, health, sexuality, political convictions, religious beliefs, and a lot more.

What are the Challenges for Marketers?People are trying to figure out the right balance,” explains Fran Reyes, Project Manager at Assemble. “Privacy is really important to consumers, and advertisers want to respect that, but at the same time, they need some return on their advertising investment.”

The balancing act continues when trying to achieve stronger privacy protocol without compromising experience. As any marketer knows, today’s consumer expects everything to be personalized. They want a deeper connection and authentic experience with a brand, but all of that comes from tracking data. While everyone may want control over their information, they also know that getting follow-ups on the things they need makes our purchasing decision and process a lot easier.

And the Alternatives?Don’t worry, this removal is not the end of tracking all together.

And wait, didn’t Google delay this phase out over two years from their initial start of January 2022? That’s true. According to the company, it needs to move at a responsible pace in finding the right alternative solutions for publishers and advertisers. “They’ll spend this time working out all the details of the migration to new options, so they can minimize the complications for the web portals that really rely on advertising in their functionality,” Fabian adds.

And those other options? The most talked about solution is based on Facebook’s tracking model, otherwise known as FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts). This approach basically clusters people into larger groups of similar behavior versus a deep dive into more personal, sensitive data to single individuals out.

First-party data will also likely step up. Even though some advertisers are already taking advantage of this approach, there’s a lot more opportunity to leverage it in the future. But they’ll have to get creative. One method being the setup of the ad itself as a source of collecting data. Opinion ads or visual animation ads that encourage interaction through questions and action are effective ways to reveal consumer behaviors and interests — on an emerging trend in digital.

“There are also steps advertisers can take when creating their ads to make sure they get the data they want without intruding on user privacy,” Fran explains. “Certain third-party vendors offer pixels that allow users to opt-out of sharing certain data, simply by adding them to the campaign during creation. In this case, cookies wouldn’t be so invasive because users are still in control. So it will be interesting to see if something like this would ever become regulated or standard.”

What’s Next?The removal of third-party cookies will certainly require the advertising industry to adapt as personalization has become a key component to campaign success. But with privacy also at the forefront of the evolving landscape, the Assemble team is ready to embrace any new functionality to help our clients enhance the effectiveness of their campaigns.

For more information on the change or to find out how we can help your campaign strategy, contact Assemble today.