3rd Party Cookies live to fight another day… For now…

Hannah Jones, Digital Account Director

As you were most probably aware, the end of 2021 was set to mark a significant milestone for the digital landscape. It was dubbed by many as the Cookie apocalypse, a little extreme in my opinion, but the promise of a fundamental shift in digital targeting and reporting currency was certainly keeping the Digital team busy. It is no secret that the success of digital advertising has been driven largely by access to data. Being able to target a very specific audience at scale has given advertisers precision and accountability, however this has come at a price for consumers. Privacy in the digital space has made headlines globally and as a result mainstream operating systems have been slowly reacting. Back in 2017 Safari started the ball rolling, and soon after Firefox followed suit. This meant that by 2018 Google/Chrome were the only ones really still allowing 3rd party cookies to thrive, but it was never going to last. The announcement followed that Google was jumping on the bandwagon – with 65% of the UK audience using Chrome, this was a biggie!

Over the past 6 months (and more!) as a team we have attended countless webinars, media owner presentations, and between us there have been in depth discussions on what the RoM approach to this brave new world was going to be. As we inched further in to summer with the apocalypse countdown firmly being on, it was clear that although plans were coming together, the industry still didn’t have a solid approach. 100% cookieless alternatives were still in testing, and the highly anticipated detail of the roll out of Googles FLoC and FLEDGE privacy first alternatives were taking a while to materialise.

And then perhaps the inevitable happened…

On Thursday last week it was announced that Google would be delaying the date that 3rd Party cookies would no longer be accepted across Chrome. The announcement wasn’t a small delay… we are talking a 2 year delay, with no plans for this to happen now until 2023. It seems that this delay is being driven largely by the fact that there was a growing need for Google to work more closely with regulators to come up with new technologies to ‘substitute’ the 3rd party cookie. A telling sign, particularly as just a few months ago Google announced they would not support the use of ID solution technology within DV360 pushing the industry into further disarray! It seems Google have now been asked to play a little bit fairer!

The Google Privacy Sandbox (the catch all term for the new proposals in this field) has detailed what the schedule for the eventual roll out of the initiative will look like (for now)

Stage 1 (Late 2022) – Publishers and the broader industry will be able to start migrating their services to the Google cookieless alternative. This is expected to take 9 months.
Stage 2 (Mid 2023) – Chrome will phase out the use of all 3rd party cookies. This is expected to take 3 months and finish in late 2023

It would be easy for us to feel as though the last 6 months has been wasted precious time. However, it has actually given us a great platform in which to be even more prepared for 2023. Concerns around privacy aren’t going anywhere, and the requirement for us to deliver transparency, and more accountable audience solutions for our clients rather than relying on the ‘dark art’ of programmatic (an actual client quote!) means that too many cookies aren’t good for us anyway! We also know that not everyone uses Chrome – so although they hold the majority of the market, our approach needs to take a more holistic view of audiences. Continuing to embrace cookieless alternatives means we don’t leave anyone out!

The next few years will be all about balance. Right now, scale across cookieless solutions is still relatively small and for some strategies cookies are an absolute must (think retargeting), but our aim will be to continue testing new audience targeting solutions. To truly futureproof what we do for our clients, this has to be our strategy. We will continue to test solutions that have already entered the market, but also ensure that exploration and testing happens across the partners that enter this space over the next 2 years. We now have the luxury of time to really start to understand what works for our clients, rather than being steamrolled in to a solution because Google said so!

Undoubtedly there will be much more to come on this topic. As a team we will continue to keep abreast of all updates and ensure we take our clients on this slightly bumpy journey with us too!

More detail on the latest announcement can be found here.