Google said hello to 2020 by waving goodbye to third-party cookies. Although this decision was announced several weeks ago, its potential implications for our industry continue to be a hot topic around here. Because, given that the phase-out has just begun, the world of online advertising is likely looking at a ripple effect here.
What this boils down to—at least for right now—is less revenue for third-party advertisers and more for Google. It’s a shift that no longer allows our cat video views and collective clicks to be fair game, but instead lumps them into the massive, unimaginably growing forest of data that Google is at the reins of.
That means that Google, in ceasing Chrome’s cookie support, has simultaneously eaten an additional chunk of online advertising (where it already commands a hefty share) and contestably made steps toward a more private browsing experience.
Now, let’s be clear: A Google-owned, less invasive internet experience isn’t a given in the long run. With competitive challenges and privacy counterstrikes inevitably on the horizon, here’s what REGROUP is eyeing and considering.
Let’s start with Chrome’s new tracking solution, the “Privacy Sandbox.” With this, marketers and advertisers soon will not be able to follow your trail through late-night shopping and distracted, mid-workday Facebook sessions (don’t lie). Instead, Google will grant advertisers access to certain sets of data only when it can confirm that user activity remains completely anonymous.
In other words, with third-party tracking out the window, those new shoes you view on website X might not be popping up on website Y.
That’s where things get interesting and where that ripple effect comes into play. To make our case for why this might matter in the future, we’re looking at the past.
Years ago, the rise in digital privacy concerns, in turn, allowed even casual internet users to implement ad blockers, rendering those third-party cookies somewhat useless. However, to address the bump in internet savvy came the use of an even more intrusive digital strategy: “fingerprinting.” Armed with this, a technique initially created for security reasons, companies could determine your age, interests, language and more.
So, as far as privacy goes, it was a classic case of one step forward, two steps back.
But, let’s instead suppose that Google will indelibly thwart third-party advertisers and their desire for our unadulterated browsing data. Would we then be looking at the rise of “opt-in” tracking and subscription-based sites? In that case, not only could the cost-of-entry for the internet increase, but users would likely and frequently opt in without reading the laundry list that comes with it. Because whoever reads that massive iPhone updated terms and conditions?
Of course, these are just a couple of the potential outcomes of Google’s recent decision. And we’re certainly not trying to sound the alarm for digital scaries, or bash changes Google is making in regard to Chrome.
What we simply want to note here is that our agency is less focused on the disappearance of third-party cookies, and instead, closely watching what could potentially rise in their place. Not just because we’re a curious bunch, but because successful digital media teams must constantly adapt.
So, for our clients and for ourselves, we’re excited to see what’s next, and will keep our noses to the ground so we can perfectly pivot.