Google Chrome browser privacy updates.

By Search/Paid Social Supervisor Alexa Gianaris and Programmatic Media Director Tom Swierczewski

On January 14th, 2020, Google announced they will be stripping third-party cookies from all Chrome-enabled devices by 2022. This is a long time coming, and the recent release of GDPR and CCPA have accelerated Google’s timeline. Starting in February of this year they will be enforcing Same Site Rules, which among other things require all cookies labeled as third-party to be only accessible via an HTTPS connection.

All publishers wanting to share their data with other companies/advertisers will have to explicitly label them as third-party trackers before making a transfer. The policy is aimed at forcing advertisers to rely exclusively on Google’s data – which not only boosts Google’s bottom line, but also limits their liability on consumer privacy violations.

Google is the largest company to announce their effort to tighten the controls on consumer privacy. However, these efforts have been extended throughout the ecosystem to the all large digital partners, and the trend will continue throughout 2020 as CCPA continues to roll out.

What are third-party cookies?

Third-party cookies are a way for web browsers to store information on a person’s internet browser history.  As a user works in the digital space, the browser stores text in their device to track their history. These cookies can then be used for cross-device understanding of a user’s browsing habits. This storage in turn allows advertisers to use the stored information to provide more personalized ads that follow a user across the web.

There is an important distinction between first-, second- and third-party trackers. First-party trackers are the ones that are developed and owned by the owner of the site/app and are used only for internal troubleshooting and data collection. Second-party trackers refers to information collected by the first-party system that is then sold to a second party for their use. Third-party trackers are not designed or owned by the site/app owner and are commonly distributed to other parties.

Does this mean all cookies are going away?

Although most third-party cookies are going away, first-party cookies will still be in use for the immediate future. These are cookies stored by a domain or website that you are visiting directly. First-party cookies are used for the site owners to collect data on their consumers to allow for a strong user experience. An example of this would be when a retailer offers up the “welcome back” messaging at the top of their page with recent products that you have interacted with. These cookies can also be helpful to store passwords or language preferences.

Similarly, the industry is prepared to move forward with cookie-less solutions. Initiatives such as Project Rearc, led by IAB Tech Labs, are working on providing standards to the cookie-less solution moving into the future of digital advertising.

Impact to the industry

Browser third party sourced data is currently the largest supply chain of data for activation purposes within the digital ecosystem, with the exclusion of social and search channels. As Chrome/Google represents the largest share of browser traffic worldwide (~90%), the recent announcement will impact digital advertising moving forward:

  • Third-party data scale will decrease over time. In 2020 the impact will be minimal, but the decrease will continue, reaching the peak numbers in 2022.
  • Quality of third-party data might decrease due to fewer signals being passed about a given user via third-party cookies.
  • First- and second-party data, which has greater providence and quality, will be at a premium, coming from both the publishers and walled gardens.

C-K’s digital media buying strategic response

Our Digital Buying teams within the Search, Social and Programmatic channels are adjusting the media strategy to ensure it is flexible enough for more upcoming changes to the ecosystem. The major focus of our efforts will be on the following:

  • Working closer with platform partners: Working directly with the advertising platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and DSP’s partners, has become increasingly more important to see how they plan to navigate this change and help inform their decision with our clients in mind. Most of these platforms are already providing more strategic ways to use their first-party data to target similar audiences that are in your consumer set, which can be leveraged for efficient targeting.
  • Leverage machine learning: As AI and machine learning is becoming more prevalent on all digital advertising platforms, now is the time to really integrate those into your approach. Machine learnings on your target audience and the data incorporated will be more and more vital as previous audiences will not be available.
  • Working close with the supply chain: Having deep relationships with publishers and understanding their audience will continue to be important to DesCK. As such we are putting emphasis on:
    • Private marketplace deals with access to second-party data that match advertiser strategies
    • Robust whitelists that match advertiser strategic priorities
  • Working with the IAB Tech Labs: Teams are staying involved with the Unified ID consortium as well as having a pulse on Project Rearc, with a focus on new ways of privacy compliant ID assignments that will allow for continued marketing efforts while not infringing on consumer rights.
  • Develop first-party data audience strategies: Work to reach audiences using the first-party data you have available. With similar and lookalike audiences available in most platforms, building out audiences from your first-party data will help achieve more efficient targeting that is closest to your core audience.

What to look for in the future

Digital advertising is rooted in the idea of reaching customers within the most relevant content for them. That principle will not be changing. However, the over-reliance on data for media buying will change in nature. Third-party data will become a lot less accessible, reliable and manageable. This will in term be running the marketer’s attention to the availability of cleanly sourced first- and second-party data.

Google is heavily reliant on their advertising business. As such they will ensure to accommodate advertisers soon with additional initiatives coming down the pipe. However, this change allows them to dictate the rules of the digital advertising road moving forward.

Closed digital ecosystems, such as Google, have a leg up on other ad and mar tech companies, as they can police the ingestion and distribution of data. They will become an even more relevant partner for advertisers in the future but will also work on maintaining their relationship with the larger advertising ecosystem. This in term will increase the adoption of the cookie-less solutions that have been in production for the past few years. The digital advertising space has already gone through vast changes since the emergence of GDPR and CCPA, so they are prepared to withstand another targeting update.