Cookie delay: ‘Don’t wait for Google, find new tools now’

google_broken2News that the Competition & Markets Authority has forced Google to put back the demise of third-party cookies for a fourth time has not come as a huge surprise to many in the marketing industry but, as Decision Marketing discovers, most experts are urging advertisers to act now or risk falling behind.

The Trade Desk’s UK vice-president, Phil Duffield, is straight on the case. He says: “This just proves Google still hasn’t developed the right solution to actually enable targeted, omnichannel advertising. This delay clearly demonstrates that brands should prioritise alternative identity solutions such as European Unified ID (EUID). Those who have started testing improved identifiers already have a competitive advantage.

“Now is the time for the advertising industry to build a new identity fabric that works across multiple channels, including the ever-evolving connected TV, while putting consumers in the driver’s seat. Only then can we optimise global campaigns and protect the future of digital advertising.”

Azerion director of data technology Marçal Serrate concurs. He comments: “Passively waiting for a complete third party cookie withdrawal – or an alternative full fix from Google – risks stagnating progress in the ad industry. The shift away from cookies remains imminent and it’s imperative for businesses to proactively acknowledge and adapt, rather than entrusting Google to singularly lead and resolve the industry’s challenges.

“As the future unfolds, the landscape is poised to become even more fragmented in terms of available solutions. Thus, finding the right partner to navigate this evolving environment is paramount for achieving success, and now there will be a bit more time to focus on this.”

Meanwhile, Ogury chief technology officer Wilfried Schobeiri reckons that whether the cookie disappears from Chrome in 2024 or 2025 doesn’t matter, insisting we are at a decisive turning point in the protection of consumer privacy.

He adds: “This journey began way before Google made the decision to switch off cookies, and advertisers can no longer look the other way. While the competition concerns raised by the CMA – including governance of the Privacy Sandbox – are valid, enhanced consumer privacy and anti-tracking need to be the priority. Seeing these vital changes slowed once again has a detrimental impact on consumers.

However Schobeiri warns: “Advertisers should not see this as a chance to again postpone their move to cookieless or ID-less solutions. This latest delay should be seen as an opportunity to invest in tested and proven solutions that will allow for scale without dependency on this timeline or future industry decisions.”

For Making Science head of data and analytics Rodney Perry, the concerns raised by the CMA create a time crunch where it is impossible to see every concern being addressed before H2.

The issue is not with 3PC deprecation, which will happen eventually, Perry argues, but with the alternatives Google has proposed once they are gone. He continues: “This announcement should not change advertisers’ strategies in the short-term – focusing on durable measurement and first party data remain key.”

SBS director of UK and EMEA Jason Warner is another who believes that placing sole reliance on Google’s timeline for cookie deprecation might not serve businesses optimally. Google’s significant influence means that its decisions often disproportionately impact smaller, independent advertisers, but this setback underscores the importance of diversifying the market with multiple players, rather than being dependent on a single monopoly.

Warner adds: “Businesses would benefit from adopting a more proactive stance instead of blindly following Google’s directives. This entails exploring alternative targeting and tracking methods, prioritising first-party data collection, and fostering industry collaboration to innovate solutions. By reducing reliance on cookies and, consequently, Google, businesses can better navigate changes in the digital landscape and exert greater control over their strategies.”

And for AppsFlyer’s general manager of privacy cloud, Edik Mitelman, the postponement feels like that friend who perpetually claims they will “be there in five minutes” while still in their pyjamas.

He explains: “Advertisers need to start controlling their own destinies, instead of obsessing over Google’s cookie dance. The whole ecosystem, from ad networks and DSPs to identity providers and brands, has been anticipating another delay and remains all too reliant on seeing what Google decides to do.

“Larger forces are also at play – with privacy legislation being announced at a federal level – making a watertight data collaboration strategy vital for all global businesses. Privacy Sandbox might be Google’s answer, but it’s not the only game in town. The extension shouldn’t be treated like a snooze button—advertisers have waited long enough to know that they should have a plan for building their own first-party data programme.”

Covatic CPO Dan Pike agrees. He says: “The latest delay highlights once again that the industry cannot afford to wait and hope that Google can solve this problem for everyone else.

“The importance of being the master of your own strategic and operational destiny has never been more apparent, and the latest news reinforces the reality that over-reliance on the tech giants can disrupt or even cause lasting damage to businesses. It also highlights the value, especially for publishers, of meaningful, equitable ad tech partnerships with companies that are more concerned with consumer and publisher needs than their own bottom line.

“Rather than allowing us to take our collective foot off the gas, this announcement further emphasises the need to act. My hope is that industry players continue to invest in, adopt, and develop alternative solutions so that when the time does eventually come for cookies to meet their end, we are all well ahead of the curve.”

Finally, Mint co-founder and COO Carlo De Matteo insists that Google has opened up a can of worms, as many in the industry still expect a targeting solution with similar functionalities and performance to be available.

However, he believes that, principally, Google is trying to solve the user privacy use case, not protecting targeting as we know it and the delay is just part of a process of undoing a system that has been built over more than a decade.

De Matteo concludes: “We need to stop thinking in terms of user tracking and invest in owned data. Data ownership extends beyond first-party data to media data, which is the vast ocean of information from multi-channel, multi-asset campaigns.

“Think impressions, clicks, conversions and creative elements. If advertisers can learn to treat audience information as pure statistics – for example, how allocating more ad spend on a channel will affect incremental sales – campaigns can remain effective even in the post-cookie era.”

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