After years of threats, Google finally did it. On January 4, the tech T-Rex began making cookies disappear for good on Google Chrome.
For those who have a sweet tooth like me, this isn’t news. Google previously announced its intention to start the removal of cookie-based tracking pixels as part of its ongoing Privacy Sandbox initiative last fall. What’s more surprising is for the first time, they actually did it.
In this first wave, 1% of Chrome users globally will see “tracking protection” enabled in their browser, meaning their third-party cookies will be blocked by default. Sounds tiny, until you realize that’s 30 million users globally. And they’re not stopping there — one could say, “They’re adding more teeth,” outlining that all third-party cookies will be blocked by default for Chrome users later in the year.
What does this shift mean for advertisers?
Hold onto your butts. Google’s move is a big deal for online advertising. It means that advertisers will start losing some insight into their ad performance and into consumers. They may functionally lose the ability to retarget.
And the size of the audience where this ability will be comprised is big now and will be even bigger in the months to come. The latest data from Statcount accredits 64.73% of the worldwide broswer market share to Chrome. Apple’s Safari, which began blocking trackers in 2015, controls 18.56% of the browser market. Together, Google and Apple, account for nearly 85% of the browser market worldwide.
Navigating between an over-reliance on Jurassic World one-liners and delving into the repercussions for advertisers, let's be clear: this move isn't only about cookies. What we’re really talking about is consumer privacy and the importance of consent. Cookies are like the opening act; the advertising industry is in for more as we try to fix our slip-ups.
Whether you vibe with Steve Jobs dissing Flash, saying it's a "spaghetti-ball piece of technology with lousy performance and security problems" (yes, surprise, those problems were cookies), or you're digging my Jurassic theme and prefer Ian Malcolm's "They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should," the point is crystal clear. Any tech snooping on someone's internet moves without a green light of consent is destined for scrutiny over the next few years.
Bottom line: Online advertisers must adjust. But as they say, “Life finds a way.” Ad tech is no different than anything else —trends rise, fall, and recycle. It's the circle of life (sorry, wrong movie). What I mean to say is this: The end of cookies doesn’t mean the end of attribution or analytics as we know it, but it does mean we’re going to have to rely on and improve some old ways of doing things.
In this looming new paradigm, advertisers must be open to things they thought they left behind, such as extrapolation, media mix modeling, and probabilistic methodologies.
The industry is speculating that Google is making this move now for a combination of reasons:
- Maybe because the company received a lot of flack over the years for continuously pushing the deadline back.
- Maybe because Apple is successfully marketing itself as protecting privacy, messaging which has been deeply anti-Google. Protecting consumer privacy polls well.
- Maybe because Google has recently been under fire for how it collects and uses data, so much so that in the E.U., Google is facing a $2.7 billion fine, and in the U.S., Google is in the midst of an anti-trust trial. Fewer data points shared externally with third parties might reduce the heat on Google.
How Innovid can help
Innovid has been steadily developing solutions for the inevitable end of cookies. Cookies have not been a signal we’ve relied on since the launch of our identity-as-infrastructure solution, Innovid Key, back in 2021.
Brands and advertising agencies working with Innovid will not experience a loss in the ability to deliver their advertising, personalize it, or measure it. What may change, depending on your specific product utilization, is the strategy we propose or the methodology we deploy to achieve your objectives.
Elsewhere, for measuring conversions to a client's website or app, Innovid recommends upgrading to our cross-device conversions product for standard conversion analytics, as it uses our Innovid Key framework where cookies aren’t a key ingredient. Even better, clients can opt into InnovidXP, which has never relied on cookies, and offers more advanced insights like reach, frequency, and attribution for converged TV campaigns
What’s next — the IP address?
Apple killed the cookie within Safari years ago and has since set its sights on another consistent method of tracking users across devices — the IP address. Last year, Apple introduced the iCloud Private Relay and other methods that block the tracking of conversions on Safari browsers. By forcing IP addresses through two separate, secure internet replays, the iCloud Private Relay damages the reliability of using an IP address to identify a single household. Ultimately, this new technology prevents advertisers from making a direct link between your seeing an ad and then visiting a website on Safari. Don’t worry, we’re ready for this. But, the point remains, it would be no surprise to us or anyone if Google followed suit (and it seems likely). After all, much like velociraptors, they do move in herds.