The Top 10 AdExchanger Stories Of 2021

Google third-party cookie deadlineThe ripple effects of Google’s decisions dominated AdExchanger’s top story list in 2021. The moves of two other Big Tech platforms – Apple and Facebook (pre-Meta) – rounded out the majority of our most-trafficked coverage.

Halfway through the year, Google threw the industry for a loop when it delayed its planned deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome until the end of 2023.

Our readers also closely followed Google product changes, including its intention not to support email-based identifiers (we’re looking at you, Unified ID 2.0) after the end of third-party cookies in Chrome, its decision not to run tests of its Federated Learning of Cohorts proposal in Europe due to GDPR concerns and its attribution change to abandoned default last-click attribution.

On the CTV front, the Mouse House’s programmatic TV ambitions attracted the attention of our audience, as did another feature about the rise of CTV.

In the year ahead, the moves of big platforms will likely continue to dominate – with TV as an opportunity and welcome distraction from the crumbling cookie.

1. Facebook Analytics Will Shut Down On June 30 – Here’s Why That Is (And Isn’t) A Big Deal (April)

Multiple reasons informed Facebook’s decision to shut down its analytics product. Although many small businesses liked the strong, free product, Facebook’s ambitions to be the next Google Analytics were never realized. On top of that, visibility would have been compromised due to Apple’s latest privacy changes, and some customers simply preferred other tools. “The macro privacy-related changes [are] likely hastening its demise,” wrote author Allison Schiff.

2. Google’s Message To The Ad Industry: We Won’t Build Our Own Third-Party Cookie Alternatives (And We Don’t Want You To Either) (March)

With Unified ID 2.0, independent ad tech made a big bet on email-based identifiers to replace third-party cookies. But Google won’t touch it. As it noted in an incendiary blog post, Google does not expect email-based identifiers to meet future privacy standards, a bombshell that nevertheless did little to slow down the UID2 initiative in the months that followed.

3. Goodbye, Last-Click Attribution: Google Ads Changes Default To Data Modeling(September)

Mushy measurement got a bit mushier in September when Google rolled out a change to its attribution modeling. As its own adaptation to new privacy and data collection rules, Google ditched rules-based attribution that directly connects clicks to sales (aka last-click attribution). Instead, an attribution and optimization algorithm is the default system for scoring Google Ads campaigns.

4. Google Grants A Third-Party Cookie Reprieve, Delays Deprecation By Two Years (June)

Google’s pre-pandemic deadline to phase out third-party cookies was delayed by nearly two years to the end of 2023. Pro: The Cookie Doctor 2023industry has more time to come up with solutions. Con: The industry has more time to procrastinate coming up with the solutions.

5. Google Will Not Run FLoC Origin Tests In Europe Due To GDPR Concerns (At Least For Now) (March)

Around the same time Google turned up its nose at email-based identifiers for privacy reasons (see top story number three), its own privacy-based measurement alternative failed the privacy test in Europe. Google decided not to run FLoC trials in Europe over concerns that the solution – designed to offer more privacy to users – could violate GDPR. Talk about a lose-lose situation.

6. 6 Types Of Post-Cookie Data That Will Still Be Available After 2022 (May)

As marketers, ad tech companies and publishers develop their post-cookie strategies, they want to make sure they’re covering every angle. This story about which data types will pass muster without third-party cookies attracted our readers’ attention, as they sought to educate themselves on how to live in the cookieless future.

7. Inside Disney’s Plan To Automate Half Its Ad Business Within Five Years (March)

It’s a significant development when a brand as big and well-regarded as Disney boards the automation train. When Disney detailed its automation ambitions during the upfront season, our readers recognized the importance of its bold plan, which spanned both Hulu and the rest of Disney’s ad-supported inventory. Related: A rundown of ad tech’s programmatic CTV ambitions landed in the top 20 stories of the year.

8. Unified ID 2.0 Is Facing Roadblocks (And Not Just To Do With Google) (March)

When Google declared it would not support email-based IDs (our number two top story of the year), it added to the pile of concerns about Unified ID 2.0’s future. To summarize the other three biggies: UID2 also needs scale to attract advertisers and publishers, consented users won’t be easy to come by and it needs someone to take charge as administrator – which is proving a lot easier said than done.

9. Dominance And Collusion: Inside The Unredacted Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google’s Ad Tech Business (October)

The juicy details of an antitrust lawsuit against Google were finally revealed nearly a year after the original lawsuit. The unredacted version is replete with revelations that riled up publishers, including allegations that Google meddled with page load times to make AMP look better and more nuggets about “Jedi Blue,” Google’s secret header bidding deal with Facebook.

10. WWDC 2021: Apple Calls Open Season On IP Address Tracking And Targeting (June)

Apple took another bite out of the ad industry in June when it set its sights on hobbling additional tracking techniques. Apple laid out plans to use a new feature, iCloud Private Relay, to obscure IP addresses. Mail Privacy Protection removes the ability to see if someone has opened an email. Apple also built a de facto Unified ID 2.0 killer, dubbed Hide My Mail, which generates unique, random email addresses, aka, burner email addresses.

Apple, what will you dream up in 2022?

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