Granted, it’s not as catchy as Europe’s 1980s anthem, but the final cookie countdown is where our industry is at right now. Midway through next year, Google is set to begin its phase-out of third-party cookies on Chrome – a change that further consolidates the digital ad industry’s shift towards more privacy-conscious forms of targeting.
While we’ve known it’s been coming since 2019, there’s no denying that the demise of cookies in Chrome (the most used browser by far) marks a landmark step-change for our industry – one that has widely and unhelpfully been characterised as the ‘cookie-pocalypse’.
Don’t get me wrong, the deprecation of third-party cookies is undoubtedly a challenge but, as I’ve argued before, it’s also an opportunity. We now have a chance to create targeting and measurement solutions that are compliant with current data protection laws by design, rather than retrofitting pre-existing strategies to keep up with the fast-paced changes in this space.
So, with around a year to go, how is the industry preparing? And what should you be doing? According to IAB Europe’s research, there has been a 23% increase in the use of second-party data since 2021, while a survey from DoubleVerify indicates that 94% of advertisers will rely on contextual advertising for some or most of their buys this year. If you’re not yet considering your alternatives to third-party cookies, it’s time to get moving. Here are three steps to take.
Get familiar with what’s out there
The cookieless technology on the market broadly falls into three categories developed by IAB Tech Lab’s Project Rearc: linked audiences, unlinked audiences, and browser- or operating system-linked audiences. These groups are based on whether a technology directly links a publisher or vendor’s audience with an advertiser’s audience at a one-to-one level, a one-to-many level, or not at all. Head to IAB UK’s site for a more granular breakdown of each of these categories and the key considerations to be aware of, as well as examples of what technology sits where.
Ask the right questions
When it comes to selecting alternatives, the good news is that you’re not expected to have all the answers – but you do need to be asking the right questions. To help with that, we have worked with law firm Bird & Bird to create a checklist of questions that advertisers and agencies should ask prospective vendors when it comes to selecting cookieless technology. From ascertaining what data is collected and how, to understanding how it is matched, this set of questions will help you to drill down into how a technology works and what category it falls into.
Test and learn (and feedback)
Of course, while it’s essential to be informed, reading about what is out there will only get you so far. If you’re not already, then now is absolutely the time to evaluate how much your business relies on third-party cookies and start testing alternative strategies. Our interactive directory of cookieless products is an excellent place to get familiar with the range of technology out there. Filter the results by the type of product you’re looking for (ie first-party, clean rooms, or attention-based) to work out what strategy and partners will best suit your objective – and then get testing. And don’t forget, if you’re trialling solutions developed by Privacy Sandbox, make sure that you’re feeding back to Google and the Competition and Markets Authority.
So, as the countdown to the demise of cookies in Chrome gathers pace, my advice to you is simple: don’t wait. The shift away from third-party identifiers is already well underway and now is the time to work out what alternative solution – or combination of solutions – will work best for your objectives. That way, when the cookie crumbles in a year’s time, you’ll have baked in a successful strategy to target and measure campaigns without them.
Chloe Nicholls is head of ad tech at IAB UK