What does Chrome’s privacy announcement mean for advertisers?

Third-party cookies, your days are numbered. You’ve got two years.

I asked our friends at Google for a comment about the recent Chrome privacy announcement. Their reply?

“This isn’t over. We may have lost the battle, but we will win the war.”

Actually, they didn’t say that. They said:

new, privacy-preserving mechanisms can sustain a healthy, ad-supported web and can eventually render third-party cookies obsolete […] There are no current plans for Chrome to stop supporting 1P cookies […]

Chrome thinks the web could evolve, in ways that preserve user privacy but continue to enable key marketing use cases.

In a carefully controlled fashion, Google is pushing the digital ad industry forward. The time for resisting it is over. It might be a windfall for the lawyers, but in principle the GDPR is right. And the ICO has a point. Third-party cookie-based ad tech has lost the battle… but the digital ad industry will win the war.

Rebuilding web standards

It’s not just the legal developments. Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention technology has aggressively undermined the function of cookies for advertising. Google’s proposals for new web browser standards are a vision of ad tech that won’t be vulnerable to ITP. Arguably, ITP will no longer have a purpose.

A more immediate industry reaction to Apple’s ITP has been increased efforts by tech vendors to “fingerprint” users: to build unique identifiers for individual users without relying on the preservation of advertising cookies. Google’s proposed solution for Chrome includes features for the browser that will prevent fingerprinting.

So overall, Google is leading a rebuild of web standards with Privacy By Design. A key principle for the proposals is the elimination of user-level data across sites. A connection drawn to Google’s Ads Data Hub makes sense. Just as with Google’s privacy-safe insight and audiences data product, the proposed Chrome “privacy sandbox” will reduce the definition of audience targeting: from individual users, to user groups.

What does this all mean for advertisers?

We have to expect some sacrifices as we invest in the long-term health of our industry. The detailed technical solutions will be worked on, but user-level targeting across sites looks to be on its way out. And measurement will necessarily be affected. Post-view tracking for Display activity, and impressions featured in multi-touch attribution, look most at risk.

Some ad tech vendors have products that are inherently at odds with user privacy. They need to start work on reinventing. For advertisers, it’s time to diversify measurement methodologies, if you haven’t already. Digital Attribution is an important tool, but we can’t use it as a single source of truth anymore. Controlled geographic split-testing should be a regular feature of account management. Long-term econometric media mix modelling should be considered if it makes sense for your business and products.

And as we’ve been saying for some time, there is a real need for advertisers to focus attention on the value of first-party data, and the quality of logged-in user experience. Business and customer data can be used to

  • Set up profit-based bidding
  • Model, predict and optimise to LTV
  • Personalise email activity
  • Personalise logged-in experiences for customers
  • Model and predict the products that site users are likely to buy
  • Build product recommendation engines
  • And more

Croud is a Cloud platform reseller, and our Data & Innovation team can help you with any of these projects. We’re also ready to help with Ads Data Hub, attribution, geographic split-testing and econometrics. Get in touch with the team here.

by Kevin Joyner
22 January 2020



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