Home Data-Driven Thinking Third-Party Cookies Will See Their End, No Matter The Timeline

Third-Party Cookies Will See Their End, No Matter The Timeline

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Amanda Martin, SVP of partnerships and business strategy at Mediavine

On Tuesday, Google Privacy Sandbox extended its arbitrary timeline for deprecating the third-party cookie yet again, saving the industry from the looming Q4 deadline. 

But was it really that juicy of an announcement?

There’s been collective scrutiny from the industry and plenty of concerns voiced pertaining to the solutions proposed in the Privacy Sandbox. The IAB Tech Lab conducted an in-depth analysis of the Sandbox’s shortcomings, and Mediavine also shared its findings on latency introduced in Sandbox auctions. Plus, the draft report from the ICO states that Google’s proposal for replacing cookies has gaps that could be exploited by advertisers. 

Clearly, the Privacy Sandbox wasn’t ready for prime time. The delay is an acknowledgment by Google that efforts to prepare its cookie alternative will take longer than its proposed deadline allows, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise to those actively participating in testing.

But Google’s recognition of “ongoing challenges related to reconciling divergent feedback from the industry, regulators and developers” barely scratches the surface of the problem.

Collaboration is the only answer

Many engaged in testing have asserted that Google’s decisions and product road map across both the Chrome Privacy Sandbox and the Google Ad Management teams seem to be divergent. Both teams offer disparate opinions on a path forward. And they differ on the viability of their own proposed remedies for addressing speculation that Google is undermining competition

Beyond anti-competitive concerns, Google’s over-engineered approach to the Privacy Sandbox APIs makes the path forward more convoluted. 

An alternative solution to third-party cookies will only be obtained via industry collaboration. While lines of communication have improved over time with the Privacy Sandbox team, it will be their product and engineering teams that need to rectify the industry’s and regulators’ current glaring concerns.

It’s important to note that many web browsers have successfully deprecated third-party cookies without offering up alternatives. Therefore, continued collaboration and transparency from Google are realistically the only path forward for developing a solution that maintains some degree of addressability – without simply discarding an audience signal that marketers have come to rely on.

Reality check

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Some might say Google delaying its cookie phaseout instead of being told it must put its plans on hold is a better reality check for everyone involved. 

But, ultimately, the timing of the deadline – whether it’s Q4 2024 or some unspecified date in 2025 – doesn’t matter. The result will be the same: Third-party cookies will be deprecated to meet privacy and regulatory concerns. And any delay announced by the Chrome team does not impact the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) investigation timeline. 

The CMA has given advertisers, publishers and the entire ad tech ecosystem until the end of June to continue testing and documenting their concerns, findings and proposed solutions. So the industry still has the same window for helping the CMA determine if the Privacy Sandbox could undermine competition in digital advertising and hinder publishers’ ability to generate revenue. 

Innovation can’t wait

Mediavine’s Privacy Sandbox concerns have been met with engagement from Google and have produced joint efforts to troubleshoot concerns and an ongoing commitment to create the best possible solution for the industry. Those are encouraging signs.

But we’ve still got work to do. The industry is in exactly the same place it was on Monday prior to Google’s announcement. We are facing a future without the third-party cookie. We have an obligation to voice our opinions to the CMA by the end of June. Whether the cookie eventually disappears from Chrome in Q1 2025 or Q3 2025, the industry still needs to adapt and innovate. 

After all, the stagnation of innovation is a larger threat to digital advertising than cookie deprecation. And the entire industry has already been consumed by third-party cookie deprecation for much longer than needed. 

Neither Google’s announcement this week nor the CMA’s findings being released later this year will alter the fundamental reality: Time is of the essence to find, create and solidify solutions that no longer rely on third-party cookies.

Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

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