Google’s upcoming cookie & privacy updates


Google is about to make tracking online activity a lot harder for advertisers. Sometime soon, no later than the end of 2022, Google will stop supporting third-party data for use in ad targeting and will no longer recognize third-party cookies in their browser, Chrome. While they have yet to announce a launch date for these changes, the targeting practices you rely on will soon disappear.

PASS THE FIRST-PARTY COOKIES
What does all this mean for your organization? First, it’s important to understand what a cookie is. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about Oreos, but they do sound good right about now… Cookies are the most common method of capturing a user’s browsing data. They work by placing a small file on a user’s device through a web server. The file is triggered when users access certain websites. Both first-party and third-party cookies technically work the same; it’s how they’re created and used that differentiates them.

Think of first-party cookies like Demoulas’ sugar cookies, the ones they bake in-house and sell only in their stores (Demoulas is a Massachusetts-based grocery chain; we love Demoulas). They may not be the best cookies in the world, but they sure enhance your Saturday shopping experience.

You can smell the unmistakable aroma of freshly baked cookies as soon as you walk into the store. The scent of cookies seems to follow you down every aisle. By the time you get to the bakery display case, you can’t resist any longer; it’s just one cookie after all. You end up eating it in the car while you’re still in the parking lot, careful not to leave any crumbs or sprinkles behind. By the time you get home, the cookie’s long gone.

LIKE THE SCENT OF COOKIES FOLLOWING YOU DOWN EVERY AISLE AT DEMOULAS, FIRST-PARTY COOKIES STAY WITHIN YOUR ORGANIZATION’S DOMAINS.


The data they collect is perhaps the most valuable to you, as they provide direct insights into how your audience behaves on the domains you own. These data include all your customers’ interactions, purchases, and behaviors on your website, social channels, CRM platforms, etc.; they don’t follow users off your platforms.

THIRD-PARTY COOKIE SWAP
Then, there are the delicious third-party cookies. In this case, we’ll use the pack of Oreos you bought at Demoulas last week. You’ve been craving them since you spotted a package in the background of your favorite TV show. You were further tempted by a single serving pack at the gas station check-out, but you didn’t give in. By the time you pass the grocery store display, you have to have those Oreos. They make it home, where you interact with them more than you realize. Their iconic blue packaging greets you every time you open the cabinet. A stack (and a large glass of milk) goes downstairs for snacking on while you rewatch WandaVison for easter eggs. Some may survive long enough to get packed into a school lunch; the rest get stuffed into a backpack and taken to the park.

It may seem like just a pack of cookies, but those Oreos have gone on a journey with you, from the moment you spotted them on TV, to the first twist and dunk, to the inevitable tossing of the empty package into the park’s recycling.

The data affected by the Google targeting change–third-party data–are like those far-reaching, hard-working Oreos. Those data are captured through a source outside of Google, via pixels that follow users around the internet, just like the Oreos follow wherever snacks may go.

AS YOUR PAST VISITORS ENGAGE WITH OTHER SITES, THIRD-PARTY COOKIES TRACK THEIR BEHAVIOR ACROSS THE INTERNET, COMPILING ADDITIONAL DATA AND PROVIDING INTEREST-BASED TARGETING OPPORTUNITIES ON SITES OUTSIDE OF YOUR ORGANIZATION’S DOMAIN.

Programmatic advertising relies heavily on these third-party cookies, but what happens to your targeting capabilities and your advertising strategy when third-party cookies stop following your targets? It’s like imagining what would have happened to snack time if Oreos never appeared in the background of that TV show.

HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLES
RELYING ON FIRST-PARTY DATA
We don’t know exactly when, but soon, Google will do away with those third-party cookies. (Don’t worry, real Oreo cookies aren’t going anywhere.) Now, Google is not the first browser to make this shift; Safari has blocked the use of third-party cookies for years. It’s important to note that removing third-party cookies does not mean advertisers will lose their tracking abilities altogether.

There are other tracking methods; however, Google’s shift will dramatically change this digital landscape and forever alter your digital advertising practices.

According to Digiday, advertisers will still be able to target their own databases of consumers through their own first-party data on Google properties, including Google’s search results pages and YouTube. Google isn’t changing any policies related to how publishers collect or use data gathered directly from users on domains owned by that publisher. An advertiser that uses Google’s ad tech will still be able to sell ads that target based on that advertiser’s first-party data. In other words, remarketing through Google will remain available if you’re using first-party data, either imported CRM data or data collected through Google’s pixels on your own site.

WHERE THINGS GET TRICKER WILL BE IN THE INSTANCES WHERE YOU FORMERLY PAIRED THAT FIRST-PARTY DATA WITH THIRD-PARTY DATA TO CREATE ADDITIONAL TARGETING LAYERS TO SERVE SPECIFICALLY TARGETED ADS. THESE UBIQUITOUS ADS ARE A CRUCIAL COMPONENT OF ANY EFFECTIVE DIGITAL ADVERTISING STRATEGY.

As of right now, it’s not clear how certain alternative targeting practices, such as building custom look-a-like models from existing first-party audiences, will work once the policy changes go into effect.

IF YOU’RE WORRIED THAT THIS PENDING SHIFT WILL NEGATIVELY IMPACT YOUR ORGANIZATION’S AD PERFORMANCE, TALK TO US AT JAMES & MATTHEW.
WHAT THE FLoC IS NEXT?
Google’s move away from supporting third-party cookies is in part a means of appeasing their users’ concerns by providing them with an additional layer of privacy control.

Domestic privacy regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act and overseas’ regulations like the EU’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) appeal to consumers’ desires for more protection over their personal data and increased online privacy.

To provide a privacy-focused solution to users’ demands, Google designed cohort targeting via FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts). This soon-to-be-released technology will allow advertisers to build and perform behavioral targeting without third-party cookies. With FLoC enabled, the data captured on a browser collects recent browsing history and habits and boils them down, sorting them into a behavioral label. These identified behaviors get grouped into similar buckets–or cohorts–to be shared with sites and advertisers.

INSTEAD OF BEING SINGLED OUT AND PERSONALLY TARGETED FOR ADS ACROSS MULTIPLE PLATFORMS AND SITES, INDIVIDUAL USERS WILL BECOME JUST ONE OF MANY IN LARGER GROUPS BEING SERVED COHORT-BASED ADS.
WILL THIS FLoC FLY?
Google will make FLoC-based cohorts available in Q2-2021 for advertisers to begin testing their new targeting capabilities. Google claims that advertisers will be able to use FLoC for interest and behavior-based targeting. They also claim it will provide users with more anonymity when surfing the web. Critics, however, say this unproven technology could very well be a bait-and-switch on Google’s behalf. This move to improve users’ perceptions of Google may bolster Chrome’s position in the browser market, while at the same time, it may introduce other privacy issues. Only time will tell how valuable a tool this group-based targeting will become. We have to wait and see what good and bad may come from FloC and be prepared to adjust the course as targeting methods change.

WE’VE BUILT MODELS TO REPLACE MOST, IF NOT ALL, OF THE INDIVIDUAL USER-BASED-TARGETING YOUR ORGANIZATION RELIES ON TO REACH CONSUMERS.

We’re ready to help you navigate this new digital landscape and excited to see what new insights this technology may uncover for you. We may not be able to offer Oreos, but we can serve up a dessert that appeals to your organization’s sweet tooth.

CALL JIM POND AT 978-424-4500 EXT. 600 OR EMAIL HIM AT J@JAMESANDMATTHEW.COM TO SET UP A TIME TO TALK.
JAMES & MATTHEW IS AN ADVERTISING AGENCY FROM MASSACHUSETTS | WE HELP OUR CLIENTS GROW THEIR BUSINESSES