Special Ad Audiences Leaving Special Category Campaigns

Google Delays Third-Party Cookie Phase-Out to 2024. Now What?

Data & Analytics

Sheri Cosgrove

Oct 12 2022

Third-party cookies have acted as the digital marketers’ common currency for years, gathering crucial data for brands to create and deliver more relevant, personalized advertisements to their optimal demographics. While data privacy regulations continue to crack down on what can and can’t be accomplished with third-party cookies, it appears the official phasing-out of the third-party cookie on Google Chrome browsers has been pushed to 2024.

The delay reportedly accommodates brands needing more time to sufficiently test tools contained in Google’s Privacy Sandbox, the initiative aimed to replace cookies as the default method for tracking online activity (and informing smart ad delivery in the process). Here’s what Google’s third-party cookie delay means for marketers.

Google Topics Explained

Google is deeply invested in striking a balance between user tracking and data privacy that works for everyone — even advertisers. The Privacy Sandbox initiative contains a number of tools to accomplish this task of targeting audiences without the use of personal data, with Google Topics API at the forefront of expected replacements for current third-party cookie functionality.

Topics, in its simplest form, is a method of categorization built to assign users a set of interests “according to the websites they have visited.” The intent of this still-developing technology is to sort audiences with data not to be shared with any external servers, and not to be stored for more than three weeks. Once Topics determines three key user interests, the system is able to randomly select one of these categories from which to serve an ad. After a short period, the information is erased and reset. While still likely to undergo several changes before widespread adoption, Topics manages to present a rudimentary solution for interest-based targeting while keeping user data anonymous.

First-Party Data Is Still Viable

Of course, just because third-party cookies are on their way out doesn’t mean all data tracking techniques are lost. Brands can still derive immense value from available first-party data — assuming they can properly incentivize customers to provide it. Campaigns can still secure user data through ultra-reliable methods like mobile ad IDs, or make certain content available in exchange for first-party data (usually an email or quick sign-up option).

Brand-owned data plays a foundational role in today’s marketing campaigns even as data privacy guidelines expand. Here are just some of the preferred marketing methods you can expect to utilize through 2024 and beyond:

  • Native ads are an opportunity to directly control the brand message and user experience and are demonstrably more readable and shareable on social media compared to display ads. Native strategies work best when they’re informative while matching the look and feel of their surrounding platform: 70% of consumers say they prefer learning about products or services through content rather than traditional advertising.
  • Create ad groups targeting “Only Trackable Users” on The Trade Desk platform to cater to your customer’s journey across devices and channels where your ads will have the most impact. Cross-device targeting reveals valuable insights into how your audience acts and which behaviors, devices, and experiences lead to the most conversions.
  • Implement device ID-based targeting strategies away from mobile Safari by serving ads across in-app environments. In-app advertising provides precise first-party data gathered from the app’s policy agreement usually required in order to download. Matching mobile device IDs to users allows your brand to target by geo-location and other personalized options reliably.
  • Optimize video specs for each marketing channel, including video ads where appropriate (which is most places). Video content in 2020 saw 10x more Twitter engagement than tweets with only text, increased the shareability of LinkedIn content by 20x, generated the most engagement of any content type on Instagram, and made Pinterest users 2.6x more likely to make a purchase.
  • Relying on server-to-server integration can help preserve the efficiency of your marketing performances by allowing communication between two or more ad servers. Though this method requires a little more technical setup, it will be worth those few extra steps in order to see improved performance.

Looking Ahead

This won’t be the last development in the fight to improve data privacy while supplying advertisers with tools to target audiences efficiently. Though Google seems set on doing away with third-party cookies in the near future (thus setting itself up as an even more powerful and borderline necessary resource for digital advertisers), widespread adoption of the Topics API is far from a guarantee, given it still requires gathering and sharing user information.

The extended testing window does add some breathing room for marketers concerned with managing a host of new changes to the marketing space over the past year, but whether Topics or a new challenger on the scene fully replaces third-party cookies in the marketing sphere remains to be seen.


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