The word is out, and marketers are talking. Google recently announced that it will begin blocking third-party cookies on Chrome by 2022 and this has many asking, “What does this mean for me?”
Since the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) went into effect in the EU in 2018, consumer privacy regulations have remained top of mind around the world. We get a little reminder of these regulations each time we visit a website and see the now expected pop-up message asking us to opt-in for cookie tracking. Google’s announcement feels like the next big change in consumer privacy and its impact will be felt far beyond the European Union because Google’s Chrome browser has a whopping 70% market share on desktop and 41% market share on mobile devices worldwide (as of the end of 2019).
While advertisers may initially mourn the loss of third-party cookies, consumers will likely embrace the changes. Consumers overwhelmingly dislike the idea of being tracked by advertisers, as evidenced by the increasing use of ad-blocking technologies — especially among younger, more tech-savvy consumers. According to a 2019 survey by the Internet Innovation Alliance and CivicScience, only about one in 10 U.S. internet users are okay with their data being used to target them with relevant ads.
The loss of third-party cookies will change the way marketers look at campaign performance and attribution. We’ll need to go beyond looking at attribution models — which largely have to be taken with a grain of salt anyway — as they can’t accurately account for multiple touchpoints across all offline and online channels. Instead, marketers will need to shift how they think of campaign measurement and what a test-and-learn approach means, with experimentation like testing creative messages by geography, and looking at real results like sales lift to determine which is more effective.
We expect that tactics like contextual targeting and neighborhood-level geotargeting will see a resurgence as advertisers look for other ways to connect with specific audiences. And of course, we expect to see a shift in ad dollars benefitting the big players in the marketplace like Google and Facebook that don’t rely on third-party cookies.
What will be the true impact of the removal of third-party cookies? It will force marketers to do better — to lean more heavily on curating solid first-party data, to forge strong partnerships for second-party data and to generate a better creative product. And that’s better for marketers and consumers alike.