The Departure of Third-Party Cookies

by | Feb 14, 2020

In January of this year, Google finally did it. They officially announced the expiration date of third-party cookies: January of 2022.

This is great news for the industry as a whole and it promises to usher in a better internet. It’s a huge step in the direction of a more privacy-friendly and more relevant advertising ecosystem.

Let’s quickly go through at a high level of what we know today will and won’t change in the next two years.

What Will Change

  • The technology behind how we target users on desktop.
  • Protections around user privacy will improve.
  • Cookie-based solutions will struggle to stay relevant.

What Won’t Change

  • The fundamental exchange of free content funded by relevant advertising.
  • Non-cookie based targeting will stay the same (i.e., mobile and connected TV).
  • The core process of executing digital advertising campaigns.

While industry leaders knew this was coming sooner or later, the two year exploration period has marketers questioning what the 2022 cookieless world will actually look like.

How the industry is reacting to the news.

In his recent video, Jeff Green, CEO of The Trade Desk, talks about how the cookie is an archaic technology. His point is that if anyone who fully understood the internet could go recreate it from the ground up, the cookie wouldn’t make the cut. He also states “What [Google] is doing and where they’re heading is to a better internet which gives more controls and this is great for everybody”.

Randall Rothenberg, CEO at the IAB, states here that, “It is now time to double-down and work together to create a safe, efficient supply chain that enables innovation and competition, and benefits consumers, businesses and economies alike.” 

These optimistic statements have been a trend across the ecosystem. Industry execs are overwhelmingly in favor of a cookieless world. In Martin Kihn’s article in AdExchanger, he relates it to the “I Heart NY” movement. “Google’s provided a chance to do what ‘I [Heart] NY’ did for Manhattan: clean up the streets, get control of traffic and improve the image of the brand. Make it morning again.”

Overall, the people whose opinions matter think this is a good move. It sets the digital advertising industry on a better path by taking into account the users’ concerns about targeted advertising and the use of gathered data.

What does a cookieless future look like?

Overall, it’s not very clear yet how things will shake out. What we know today is that there is plenty of cookieless third-party data that is still targetable and Google has opened up discussions with industry leaders to ensure the success of digital advertising for the long term. 

Cookieless Third-Party Data

A small light in all this is that not all third-party data is cookie-based. All mobile in-app and Connected TV segments are based on device IDs, which, as of today, aren’t going anywhere.

Some industry leaders think these device IDs are next on the chopping block, but the fact is that right now, it’s not something to worry about. 

Google’s Privacy Sandbox

Google has created a Privacy Sandbox which is  “a proposed set of web standards designed to protect privacy while still giving advertisers the ability to target and measure campaigns.”

As a part of this initiative, they’ve opened up discussions with industry leaders to create solutions to the advertising industry’s problems. The brain trust here is massive and covers every corner of the ecosystem. Whatever gets developed here will no doubt serve the needs of the entire industry.

Google Could Create Device IDs

What really got me excited in Jeff Green’s video was his idea of working with the OEM manufacturer (i.e., the people who produce the hardware behind your macbook) to develop a targetable Device ID for desktops and laptops. 

This solution is essentially replicating how we target mobile devices through Device IDs with an added layer of user privacy measures. People like me are hoping for a solution like this. There’s a lot of work to be done to get this into place, but it’s an incredibly exciting idea.

HERE’S THE BREAKDOWN

  • This is an industry wide change that only affects desktop targeting.
  • All mobile and connected TV targeting will remain the same.
  • There is a two year innovation period where industry leaders will work with Google to build a better solution.
  • The quid pro quo of the internet will not be affected. 

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