On July 27, 2022, Google updated their timeline for phasing out cookie-based targeting in Chrome until the end of 2024. Coincidentally, Gartner published our Hype Cycle for Digital Advertising the day before, on July 26. Clients can read that document here. Cookies never appeared on the Hype Cycle for Digital Advertising; by the first publication in 2020, they were a foundational technology of the digital advertising ecosystem.
Despite the cookie’s commonality, one of the core themes of the Hype Cycle for Digital Advertising is the impact of its deprecation, along with other unique identifiers like device ID and IP address. If Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative was on the hype cycle, it would land squarely in the Trough of Disillusionment. It would sit below technologies proposed to replace cookies and other identifiers, including Identity Resolution and Consent and Preference Management. If there were a level below the trough, I suspect most marketing leaders would place the Privacy Sandbox there.
And for good reason. You spent the last several years preparing for the death of the cookie, only to have Google unilaterally reset the clock. However, all of the efforts to move away from cookies and develop alternatives are not in vain. Genius brands and their digital marketing leaders have focused on advertising’s impact on the core of their business. The best deploy common-sense media strategies and build direct relationships with their customers in order to power first-party data strategies.
Platforms, Regulators and Consumers Still Work Toward Privacy and Explicit Consent-based Targeting
Instead of anger at Google for another delay, accept the time to wind down any remaining cookie-based targeting and measurement. Platforms (e.g., Apple’s App Transparency Tracking initiative and other privacy moves) and regulators, including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), have all shifted toward consumer privacy and explicit consent-based targeting. In addition to platforms and regulators, Gartner data shows that consumers are changing their behaviors to ensure their own privacy: 81% turn off data tracking, 75% are using ad blocking and 73% browse in no tracking mode.
Bottom line: digital marketing leaders need to move away from the cookie, even if Google’s announcement is met with a collective yawn. The technical details don’t concern to the average marketer or consumer, but their impact will be felt regardless. The advice we offered in Google to Drop Cookies, but Still Hold the Cards (client link) still holds. Advertisers, publishers and ad tech providers that deal with cookie deprecation in an agile way will come out of this on top. Don’t get stuck in the trough with the Privacy Sandbox!
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