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Chrome & Cookies: Tomorrow never comes?


Simon Harris 11 aug 2022

Chrome & Cookies: tomorrow never comes?

The Privacy Sandbox is a set of proposals for Google’s Chrome browser that will replace third-party cookies for online advertising in Europes most popular browser. 

When Google announced the initiative in August 2019 it envisaged it would take around two years to build alternatives, however late last month it was announced the rollout would be delayed by a year for the second time, extending the life of third party cookies in Chrome to late 2024. So what is going on and why are there more delays?

The First Delay 

It was 13 months ago in June 2021 that the first delay to the rollout out of the Privacy Sandbox was announced. The delay was no surprise as initial progress with the proposals had been rather slow. Google said in a blog post that it wanted to “move at a responsible pace” to allow “publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services to new solutions”.

Behind the scenes Google’s proposals had drawn the attention of competition regulators and as a result Google entered into an agreement with the UK competition watchdog for them to oversee the process, to ensure it was  fair. Many speculated this was the true reason for Google pushing back their timeline by 12 months, to Q4 2023. 

Groundhog Day

In a blog post on July the 27th 2022 Google announced the second delay to the rollout of the Privacy Sandbox, which pushed back the phasing out of third-party cookies in Chrome to the second half of 2024. 

The announcement felt very familiar and it didn’t surprise many but again it added more uncertainty around the future of online advertising in Google Chrome.  

Google said “The most consistent feedback we’ve received is the need for more time to evaluate and test the new Privacy Sandbox technologies before deprecating third-party cookies in Chrome.” 

This is perhaps unsurprising given in the last year they had to dramatically alter their proposal for interest based targeting replacing FloC with Topics because early tests revealed a number of privacy concerns.

What Now? 

Some have speculated the delay is in part because Google is struggling to balance the needs of its customers on the buy and sell side. 

For example buyers have criticised Topics for not offering granular enough targeting, publishers are concerned that it will be too granular and undermine their investments in first party data. There is no way of knowing how long this will go on for and whether this is the last delay. 

In a move that underlines the complexity In May the UK Competition watchdog announced it was probing Google over its potential abuse of dominance in ad tech. 

So what can advertisers who want to prepare for the future in these uncertain times do to ensure they navigate this transition period successfully, however long it lasts:

  1. ID Neutral Targeting: Whether it is Sentiment, GARM or IAB Contextual targeting all of these are privacy centric approaches to targeting the content of a page. They can also work without IDs. DPG Customers buying programmatic guaranteed & private markets can access this targeting free of charge.

  2. Data Clean Rooms. DPG Media offers DataLab a clean room that allows advertisers to generate insights from their first party data and the media data from across our network and create custom audiences from CRM data, a great compliment to the broad reach contextual offering.

  3. Brand Lift Measurement. You probably knew that DPG Media’s sites are amongst the most trusted in Europe, but perhaps you didn’t know that this means advertising with us drives more brand lift than advertising with our competitors. We can help you measure this across all browsers including those where third party Cookies do not work through BrandFacts.
Simon Harris
Programmatic trading expert

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