Hear that? It’s the sound of an industry’s collective sigh of relief after Google’s recent announcement that third-party cookies will still be around until at least 2023. Don’t stick your head in the sand though, the Privacy Sandbox isn’t going away!
What does Google’s delay on removing third-party cookies from Chrome mean for publishers?
Google had to do it. With outstanding questions on the privacy compliance of cohort-based proposals (especially under GDPR) and the antitrust implications of enforcing changes that an industry is still ill-prepared for, sticking to the original timeline would have been a recipe for chaos. Publishers’ earnings would almost certainly have borne the brunt of the impact, while advertisers scrambled to find solutions to their targeting and attribution challenges, likely by funneling even more spend through the walled gardens.
Google’s update admits that “more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right.” The updated timelines indicate the first stage of testing will begin in late 2022, with support for third-party cookies being phased out in the back half of 2023. Even then, the timelines will still be dependent on feedback from the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
So yes, it’s okay to exhale. But we shouldn’t pretend that this is now a problem for another day. To some extent, publishers may be dependent on the progress of solutions developed within the Privacy Sandbox, as well as the efforts of industry bodies such as Prebid and the IAB to implement and promote widespread adoption of new standards. However, publishers should use this time to explore new opportunities to drive advertiser engagement with their audience, in ways that respect user privacy and aren’t reliant on third-party cookies.
We also can’t forget that a world without third-party cookies already exists. While Chrome may have a dominant market share among browsers, Safari and Firefox still account for as much as 30 to 40% of web traffic in North America. The current absence of third-party cookies in these environments is an opportunity for publishers and advertisers to implement solutions that they can translate to Chrome in the near future.
So what can you do?
1. Enjoy the extended time to earn revenue from third-party cookies
For publishers reliant on revenue from third-party cookies, Google’s announcement means advertiser budgets aren’t going to shift as soon or as suddenly. Keep driving optimizations to your site that will help attract and engage your audience and maximize monetization both now and in the future.
Shameless Freestar product plug #1: Our platform and analytics can help you test and understand how changes to your site and ad stack impact your revenue and performance.
2. Examine the relationship between your users and your content
In some ways, an over-reliance on third-party tracking via cookies has under-emphasized the role that context and user intent play in driving performance for advertisers. This has led to a proliferation of buy-side tools to evaluate brand safety and ensure contextual relevance while targeting their intended audience. Now publishers have an opportunity to take back more control and directly express to buyers the unique attributes and value of their audience in a specific context.
Publishers are also best positioned to build trust with their audience and properly communicate the value exchange of ads, helping users understand the intersection of their privacy rights and preferences with advertising that supports the content they are consuming.
Shameless Freestar product plug #2: Freestar’s powerful analytics can help you understand what content is resonating with your users and performing for advertisers. Our integrated CMP support can help obtain informed consent for serving personalized ads to your site’s visitors.
We’re also excited about opportunities to partner with you and leverage Prebid’s First Party Data support to expose and aggregate additional information that can boost the value of your ad inventory to buyers. Our Product team would love to hear from you and find out how we can support your use cases.
3. Explore and test new solutions
While the urgency to replace third-party cookies in Chrome may be lessened, publishers and advertisers alike should continue to test and adopt identity solutions that can help increase match rates across all environments, especially those that lack third-party cookies today. Integrating all of the 25+ Prebid User ID sub-modules doesn’t make sense, but the value of some of the top solutions should improve for publishers over time as critical scale is reached for targeting a buyer’s desired audiences through those channels.
Prebid’s efforts to develop a single sign-on solution offers promise for helping publishers engage and inform users beyond a CMP’s focus on compliance with regulations. The right combination of first-party data and identity solutions can also contribute to effective strategies for direct deals with brands and agencies.
Shameless Freestar product plug #3: Freestar’s support for the Prebid User ID module can help you determine the true revenue lift of each solution, so you can see which vendors are adding real value and which are over-promising and under-delivering. We’re also members of Prebid.org, working closely with industry experts as new identity standards and solutions are designed and released to benefit the open web.
In summary, we think the extended life of third-party cookies will benefit publishers. But in order to maximize sustainable monetization now and in the future, that time should be used wisely to test and implement new revenue-generating solutions that respect privacy rights while offering better experiences for consumers and advertisers alike.