Google's long goodbye to cookies

By AdNews | 8 January 2024
Credit: Alain Pham Via Unsplash

Google has finally started the countdown to the forced retirement of cookies, changing the face of digital advertising and the work of media buyers, all in the name of privacy.

The end has been talked about for years but the global digital giant will this month disable third-party cookies for 1% of users of Chrome, the browser preferred by about two-thirds surfing the internet.

And by the end of 2024, Google plans to have killed off cookies, which are used by digital advertisers to track users.

The first participants for the cookie killer, Tracking Protection, are selected randomly.

“If you’re chosen, you’ll get notified when you open Chrome on either desktop or Android,” says Google’s Anthony Chavez, VP, Privacy Sandbox. 

“And that’s it! As you browse the web, third-party cookies will be restricted by default, limiting the ability to track you across different websites.”

Publishers have been building out their first party data, which for advertisers will be gold as cookies disappear and they need to fine tune targeting.

Apple has already cut cookies because of concerns about privacy, serving personalised ads and monitoring an individual’s online browsing.

James Bayes, VP ANZ at The Trade Desk, thinks retirement of cookies is the best thing to happen to digital advertising since the internet began despite reports of panic among advertisers. 

“The long-awaited deprecation of cookies is finally beginning but Google’s solution, the Chrome Privacy Sandbox, which only works on a Chrome browser, likely doesn’t benefit anyone other than Google,” he says.

“Protecting consumer privacy online, doesn’t have to mean making it harder for publishers to earn revenue.

“Removing third-party cookies appears to be just an exercise to position Chrome as a privacy-conscious browser, while attempting to do just enough to avoid the watchful eye of antitrust authorities, while in my view stopping digital advertising from reaching its full potential. Which is why the advertising industry is on a collective mission to build something better. 

“Key industry players have come together to create a patchwork of different identity solutions that cover not only the browser environment but also growing channels such as digital audio and streaming. Solutions such as Unified ID 2.0 have been built to do what cookies never could - benefit publishers and advertisers, while at the same time supporting the consumer experience.”

In the world of advertising, cookies are only for online. Radio, television and outdoor have their own way of tracking users. 

“While walled gardens (publishers) are replacing cookies, we hear the pain points from our clients because they are buying media differently today,” according to data, insights and consulting company Kantar.

“They are not just working with digital and TV, but increasingly retail media, in app, and social. Campaigns are not ‘just digital’ anymore, and in parallel, the TV ecosystem continues to also expand providing even more ways of viewing. 

“It is important to work with innovative measurement solutions so that you can make media decisions seeing the whole picture, from one view.” 

In Australia, the advertising industry is  figuring out ways to deal with significant change if the federal government decides to implement recommendations from the Privacy Act Review.

Canberra appears ready to give a measure of control to individuals on how their personal information is used in direct marketing and advertising.

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