Google announced last week that it will delay the phase-out of third-party cookies in its Chrome browser until late 2023.
While there is a momentary collective sigh of relief being heard across a wide swath of madtech advertisers and platform providers, it is important that we continue to push forward with strategies that don’t depend on third-party cookies. Though the deadline has been pushed out, the sense of urgency needs to stay high. Delaying the inevitable doesn’t make it go away.
Let’s not forget that our marketing and advertising solutions have already been impacted for the past several years. Apple continues to make aggressive changes as shown by its June 11, 2021, announcement of elevated email inbox privacy. We anticipate other browser providers will continue to follow suit. Personalization, measurement, and general customer experience (CX) is getting harder to execute effectively. Google is simply giving a temporary stay of execution, not a pardon. All the circumstances we’ve been discussing about third-party cookie deprecation are still true. And, there are philosophical, practical, and ethical reasons to move away from third-party cookie-based marketing:
- Philosophically, third-party cookies have always been a little messy from a targeting and measurement perspective. They are household, not individual, identifiers. For the financial services industry that means they will never be allowable for pre-screened offers.
- Ethically, privacy legislation is demanding more consent be collected from consumers in marketing – now in several states, not just California. People want better control of their privacy – “brands need to know me well enough to forget me” – and brands need to honor that for their customers.
- Chrome has more than 50% share of the desktop user market, but Safari has more than 60% of mobile browser share. Safari has been out of the third-party cookie business for years – 60% of mobile users aren’t reachable using third-party cookies. Only half of desktop users will see addressable media.
- Practically, Apple’s changes requiring users to opt in to tracking are here to stay, and the third-party cookie doesn’t do anything to help get to mobile users on iPhones.
To elaborate a little more on Apple’s most recent announcement, there are some other key points to consider as well.
- iOS has a significant market share in the U.S., but worldwide Android has by far more market share. So, the impact will vary by geography. Adoption rates for the new iOS will also have a bearing on the impact.
- The VPN option appears to be a paid option, so adoption will certainly be lower. The VPN option will also have performance impacts as all browsing traffic will have to route through the proxy servers, so it will be interesting to see what that impact is and how accommodating people will be.
- Hide My Email will certainly have an impact on email identity resolution when collected from third-party lists. Hide My Email functionality will push brands to accelerate their efforts to gather the email address directly from people via “authenticating” or “identifying” events. But even then, depending on how the functionality is applied it could still cause significant challenges.
There are still a LOT of unknowns and details that haven’t been fully communicated or understood, so our thinking will continue to evolve. We also expect there will be more announcements to come. We do anticipate that each announcement will have varying impacts on brands/advertisers and on Real Identity. Each will need to be addressed over time and resolved for. This is a compelling reason for brands to consider the future resilience of their identity and madtech solutions.
We need to continue exploring alternatives, making investments in new capabilities and focusing on building our robust consumer-focused first-party solutions. Building trust with customers and honoring their privacy and preferences is still a critical function moving forward, and we don’t need to delay our efforts simply because Google has delayed the end of third-party cookies in Chrome.
First-party solutions – those built and owned by the brand – are the foundation for navigating the new media landscape. Brands that invest in a first-party identity graph and tagging solution while third-party cookies are still here will have the most robust view of their customers and prospects. Collecting this data now means they will be poised to know their customers and prospects well, enabling better personalization and ultimately better customer experiences. With a first-party graph, brands could even end up with more comprehensive reach considering the browser share stats above. It is certain that brands leveraging an owned, first-party identity graph will have more control – and the option to be uncoupled from Big Tech changes. First-party data belongs to a brand and is its to use compliantly as it wishes.
Don’t be lulled into complacency or a false sense of security. Now is the time to act; you just simply have more time to refine and adjust. To sum it up I will go back to the U.K. World War II mantra that is always good advice when dealing with an ever-changing marketing ecosystem, “Keep Calm and Carry On!”
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