And That’s How the Google Cookie Crumbles



Personalization is here to stay – but this means developing an entirely new approach to advertising.


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The days of third-party data tracking within the world’s most popular browser are over.

After months of speculation, Google has finally confirmed that it will join Safari and Firefox in withdrawing support for third-party cookies by 2022.

The growth of the ad tech ecosystem as we know it was due in large part to advertisers’ ability to use third-party products to “follow” customers around the web, understanding their behaviors and preferences, and then serve targeted advertising to them efficiently via digital media. As the major browsers (and consumers themselves, via ad-blockers) eliminate the ability to “tag” consumers, the industry can expect a sharp departure from the way things were.

That said, personalization is here to stay. What the news does reinforce is the strength of so-called “walled gardens” like Google, Amazon, and Facebook that carry so much individual scale that they don’t need to rely on cookies to make hyper-personalized targeting possible.

What are cookies, anyway?

Most consumers are “cookied” every day without even being aware. A cookie refers to text or small packets of data sent by websites to be stored in your computer’s browser.

Third-party cookies, specifically, are those that are set by an alternative site than the one you are on including a third-party video provider, social channel, or ad platform. When a publisher or site strikes a partnership with one of these businesses, they add a line of code to their site.

Cookies help create user profiles, which provide detailed information on the sites you visit and the journey of what you do during your browsing time. This gives advertisers key insight into your interests and preferences allowing them to deliver a more targeted advertising experience.

Industry implications

Google’s Chrome browser makes up 69 percent and 40 percent, respectively, of desktop and mobile browser share — accounting for more than half of all web traffic overall. The bottom line?

Anyone with a website, including brands, agencies, and publishers, will be affected by the move. While some may argue this was an inevitable move, this doesn’t change its significance and the impact it will have today and in years ahead.

  • In the short term, marketers lose an instrumental method they currently use to target many of their customers.
  • In the long-term, they must find a more sustainable solution that is more direct and personal to the consumer.

One way to achieve this is by seeking out and relying on first-party data from owned audiences. The other, and what would be much more complicated to navigate, building better relationships with customers and the media they consume.

Moreover, many experts predict that the real winners will be walled gardens like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, who now stand alone in their ability to provide a high degree of targeting at scale.

The trend toward a cookieless web impacts publishers and third-party ad-tech platforms the most, since this will require them to sell and serve ads in new ways. Digital publishing was already under pressure as ad budgets have shifted from their owned and operated properties to the big platforms. Some publishers, like The New York Times, have had success by refocusing their efforts on driving digital subscriptions.

In short, we can expect a greater emphasis on one-to-one relationships that are personalized and relevant — but this won’t come without some obstacles and the likely continued flow of ad budgets to the big platforms.

Learn more about Privacy Matters as part of our 2020 global theme: HUMAN.X and help us establish a human-first, experience-driven approach to digital marketing. Secure your early-bird discount today to save 20% on your full-conference pass to #SMWNYC (May 5-7, 2020).


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