Google’s delay in ending third-party cookies following concerns by UK regulators signals a continued struggle in finding viable advertising solutions and isn’t at all surprising, according to media agencies contacted by AdNews.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has stated Google cannot proceed with third-party cookie deprecation until competition concerns are resolved. Google has now delayed the move for a third time to 2025.

The Pistol media partnerships and strategy director David Lee says the delay highlights ongoing challenges from developers, regulators and the broader industry.

“With a move that is set to majorly impact the digital advertising landscape, there is absolutely some concern around the lack of confidence that Google is able to instil in bringing this project to completion,” Lee says.

However, this should not be an excuse for the industry to further delay its own preparedness.

“Despite this setback, it’s important to remember that not only is the deprecation of third-party cookies inevitable, it has already happened,” Lee says. “Non-Chrome browsers, representing around 50% of browser usage in Australia, have been restricting the use of third-party cookies for a number of years.

“There are also still significant privacy and data protection issues when relying on this technology. Therefore, adopting reliable, secure, and compliant practices should remain a priority for brands that have not yet fully committed to a privacy-first strategy.”

Third-party cookie deprecation is a significant change and regulators are racing to ensure the fallout is mitigated, Atomic 212 national CEO Claire Fenner says.

“Regulations are still catching up to technological developments in a lot of areas, so it’s important to slow down a change like this to put the correct measures in place to ensure that, in this case, the changes are not anti-competitive.”

Kinesso audience and data partnership lead Natalie Hatch confirmed this is the third time since the initial announcement in January of 2020 that Google has pushed back the deadline.

“Considering the delay on this occasion is being driven by Google’s need to provide more clarity to the CMA in the UK, as well as the UK Information Commission’s Office, on how they plan to remove third party cookies without unfairly hindering competition, it is also not surprising that Google haven’t provided a concrete replacement date.

For brands and agencies who have been proactive and are prepared for the deprecation on the original deadline of the end of 2024, this news brings no material difference, she says.

“For those who may have been behind the eightball and beginning to panic about their readiness, this will feel like a reprieve, giving them more time to get ready.”

What will be worth watching, says Hatch, is how identity providers respond to this change, many of whom have been struggling to get publisher integration into their ID solutions and suffering scale difficulties in media buying.

“With the deadline being pushed back, they may not see the ‘last minute’ publisher adoption in H2 of this year that they had been expecting – we hope that’s not the case,” she says.

The decision also didn’t surprise Claxon general manager Danny Molyneux.

“As competitors advance without reliance on cookies, this delay extends one of advertising’s longest sagas,” he says.

“Advertisers have faced this uncertainty for a while now, needing to adapt strategies amidst ever evolving privacy concerns.”

Molyneux says the industry must continue to innovate alternative targeting methods, emphasising user privacy and data protection.

“Collaboration among all stakeholders remains crucial to navigate this transitional period, ensuring sustainable and effective advertising practices.”

The CMA’s latest report on Google’s Privacy Sandbox highlights several unresolved issues that need addressing prior to their removal from Chrome, originally scheduled for later this year. It is understood UK regulators will update the market on their investigation in a report at the end of this month.

Since January 2021, the UK’s Competition and Market Authority has been closely monitoring Google’s Privacy Sandbox APIs, requiring their buy-in and approval for any advancements proposed to ensure Google isn’t giving itself an unfair advantage, says Orange Line’s data and analytics lead Grace De Cruz.

“Requiring ongoing sign-off from a government body would inevitably create delays. In addition, the initial results of some of the key APIs are not yet ready to meet advertisers’ needs, so the advertising world should be relieved that Google is giving itself more time to get it right,” she says.

“For all the non-Googlers in the media industry, we continue as planned.”

De Cruz says the measurement landscape has already seen significant changes, such as Apple’s iOS updates in 2021 and the proposed reforms to the Australian Privacy Act in 2023.

“Whether third-party cookies in Chrome are deprecated in 2024 or 2025, it’s imperative that we keep abreast of the ongoing changes and continue to prepare as best we can.”

LexLab director and founder Alfie Lagos says while some in the idnsutry may see this announcement to defer the end of third-party cookies, Lexlab perceive it as a decisive call to arms, prompting an acceleration of innovative, privacy-centric advertising strategies.

The extended timeline is not merely a pause; it’s a pragmatic response to the complexities of our industry’s reliance on third-party cookies, Lagos says.

“Platforms like DV360 and CM360 have integrated these trackers deeply within their systems, powering essential features from audience targeting to conversion measurement.

“Google’s delay is not just about refining its own technologies—it’s a reflection of the broader market’s readiness. The transition to a cookieless world demands meticulousness, and Google’s Privacy Sandbox, while promising, is a single piece in a vast puzzle.”

For Lagos, Google’s cautious approach in navigating away from third-party cookies is understandable; the company is not just re-engineering DV360 and CM360 but spearheading a market-wide transformation.

“As they develop cookieless solutions, Google faces the dual challenge of addressing their own platforms’ needs while ensuring these solutions are viable for the broader market,” he says.

“They must tread carefully, balancing innovation with the responsibility that comes with their scale – they cannot, and should not, unilaterally dictate the future of digital advertising. It’s about establishing a framework where the entire market can thrive without compromising individual privacy.

For brands, this underscores the necessity of rethinking digital advertising methodologies.

Lagos says reliance on direct consumer data and non-cookie-dependent technologies must become integral to advertising efforts. This shift requires embracing tools and strategies that respect user privacy and ensure data security.

Strategic moves for brands, according to Lagos, involve deepening first-party data integration; brands should refine their data collection methods to strengthen direct relationships with customers and enhance engagement.

“As well as adopting CRM platforms – tools like HubSpot, Salesforce, and Oracle are crucial in managing first-party data, enabling brands to engage with their audience more meaningfully,” he says.

“Commit to continuous learning: It is imperative for marketing teams to stay informed and adept at using emerging technologies and data strategies.”

The Media Store digital director Luke Manley believes the announcement from Google shouldnt change the current landscape at all.

“The market has taken a long time to hone its thoughts on the ‘cookie-less future’ but the fact is, it’s already here. A lot of work has already been done to stitch together unique IDs across the web,” he says.

There are a number of platforms already in market using an overarching view of bid-stream activity across the programmatic ecosystem to make sense of who’s looking at what, Manley says.

“This approach and these IDs can be delivered into addressable audiences, with immediacy (no 30 day look back window) and AI powered behavioural knowledge to understand what that consumer is likely to do next, and where our brands should appear.”

In hindsight, says Manley, cookies may have been holding the industry back by limiting targeting and re-targeting evolution for far too long.

“For example, Apple devices have been blocking third party cookies as a default setting since the start of COVID-19! (March 2020). Approximately 43% of mobile internet sessions in Australia occur on Safari and approximately 19% of desktop.

“Targeting by ID rather than cookie opens advertisers up to all online Australians and the price of doing so will drop as the dearth of Safari impressions come into play.”

As far as the industry has come since the degradation of consumer signals, there is still a lot of uncertainty to how it progresses, says Enigma head of data and technology Antonio Panuccio.

“The identity resolution ecosystem is fragmented, and first-party data really only addresses known audiences – there is still a hole in how businesses attain new audiences or address non-Chrome users.

“We sometimes forget that before every platform added ‘AI’ to their marketing sales pitch, ‘cookieless solution’ was the industry’s favourite catchphrase.”

Most surveys indicate that marketers are not ready for the cookie to crumble so this delay is a reprieve and time not to be wasted, says Panuccio.

He says those relieved should spend the time reviewing their marketing technology stack, assessing their vendors, and pulling their cookieless strategies out from the bottom drawer and back onto the desk for steady study instead of the night-before cram.

“The same goes for our friends in adtech, too. This delay is partial acknowledgement that there is credence to claims that this whole move hurts their ability to compete and that the walled gardens will continue to thrive,” Panuccio says.

“However, it’s a move that must happen and while consumers don’t fully understand the level of change going on in the background, privacy-centric changes such as these is what they’re asking for.”

For Panuccio, it means more time for the industry. For marketers to catch-up, for businesses to commit budget to solutions, and for vendors to legitimise their solutions.

“Putting deprecation aside, cookie match and sync rates are steadily declining and average at 50% – optimistically and depending on the study. If deprecation remains in a limbo state, shifting to different tacts is still a competitive edge.

“In any case, the cookie jar is going to be off-limits at some point: mum and dad already took away the gingersnaps and snickerdoodles. It’s just grandma sneaking us chocolate chip on the side. And as much as we love grandma, the chocolate chip is getting stale. It’s time to try something a little healthier.”

Half Dome digital partner Euan MacDonald says the postponement of Google’s cookie deprecation timeline brings mixed implications for the advertising industry, highlighting both preparedness and ongoing adaptation.

“Continued preparation: Advertisers have been gearing up for cookie deprecation for almost two years, implementing alternative tracking methods like server-to-server tracking and CDPs,” he says.

“Minimal disruption: The postponement doesn’t significantly affect prepared advertisers, like those at Half Dome, who have already adjusted their strategies accordingly.”

The shift towards alternatives such as Google’s Privacy Sandbox API and other tracking methods are already gaining traction, steering advertisers away from reliance on traditional cookies, says MacDonald.

“While the timeline has shifted, the ultimate deprecation of cookies remains inevitable, emphasising the need for continued adaptation and readiness in the advertising industry.”

For Lee at The Pistol, audience targeting has historically been propped up through the use of third-party cookies, and this dependency continues to pose a risk for the cookieless future, as it has commonly come at the expense of first-party data strategies and developing a deeper understanding of a brand’s known audience.

“It is critical that brands adopt an audience-centric approach that is informed by robust, first-party databases in order to maintain effectiveness in their marketing efforts,” he says.

Achieving cut-through will require brands to innovate in how they collect and leverage their first-party data, says Lee, as well as how they measure the effectiveness of their activities.

“This includes tactics such as utilising owned channels to increase the level of direct engagements with consumers, refining data-led automation flows for more effective communication, and implementing impartial, cross-channel attribution to inform ongoing strategies.”

Quantcast vice president APAC Sonal Patel says while this latest delay is hardly surprising, it makes no meaningful difference for advertisers.

Rather than letting Google dictate the timeline, Patel says, advertisers should instead focus on finding better solutions that can drive performance and growth for businesses. 57% of the internet is already in cookieless environments, so those not already testing are already missing out.

“Our conversations have focused more on the test size rather than the timeline. To run a sufficient test, we recommend that Google moves from a 1% sample size to 10%, and quickly,” she says,

“In the meantime, marketers shouldn’t stand still and wait for Google, and many aren’t. We’ve already run more than 6,000 cookieless campaigns for our clients to help them reach audiences across all browsers.”

Article originally published on AdNews.


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