Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Sophie Strong: Making the most of Google’s third-party cookie delay

Sophie Strong is Managing Partner of Media Experience at PHD UK and NDA’s new monthly columnist.  She has worked in digital media for over a decade, spanning areas such as social, programmatic, and broader digital planning. 

Sophie has driven step-change which has been recognised at an industry level with award wins for integrated performance, social, programmatic, and technology. She was named as one of Media Week’s 30 under 30 in 2018.

Alongside this Sophie pioneered an industry-leading study on paid social trends which won best research initiative at the Performance Marketing Awards in 2022.

You may have seen the headlines outlining Google’s plans to delay the deprecation of the third-party cookie until mid-late 2024 this week. Big sigh, right?

Before we get into what this means, let’s pause and recap on what’s happened. On the 27th July Google announced a further delay to their plans to deprecate the third-party cookie in the Chrome browser. This will now begin in 2024 rather than 2023. Why are they delaying this? To allow the necessary due diligence following feedback to test and evaluate their new Privacy Sandbox technologies.

Now, as frustrated as we all are by the delay, it is quite a fair reason – they’re doing the necessary due diligence to their own solutions, whilst allowing the industry more time to test and revise their own tools. Whilst the industry has been very good at jumping into cookieless solutions like contextual targeting, some solutions (think ID-based solutions, and some cookieless) have struggled to either get off the ground or gain traction.

Let’s also not forget, iOS 14.5 happened over a year ago and the impact that has had has been felt as the industry struggled to get solutions in place in time. Statista states a 21% weekly opt-in rate worldwide of mobile users allowing app tracking after the iOS14.5 update. Flip that on its head and that is 79% of mobile users on iOS devices opted out. This change alone has already driven drastic changes to how we optimise, measure and target in environments which rely heavily on mobile users.

We must also remember that the restriction of the third-party cookie isn’t actually a new thing. Apple’s Safari browser implemented this restriction in 2018, alongside Mozilla Firefox, and we all adapted.

So, rather than moan and worry, we should look for the silver lining. As an industry we have been given an opportunity to really firm up our testing approach, further refine our clients marketing technology stacks and agree the optimal set up for measurement in this space. 

Extra time is not something we often get when big shifts happen in the market!

What this means is that testing should be a top priority for the industry as we have a grace period to do this properly.

  1. Let’s get more in control of our first-party data strategy. This really will be an enabler for so many brands as they get to understand more about what their current and potential consumers want to see and hear from them.
  2. Continue to test new initiatives that have considered these changes and created solutions that are putting users first at the heart of their model to drive greater attention and outcomes.
  3. Work with and feedback to publishers and tech partners on their targeting solutions like enhanced contextual offerings which layer on multiple signals or unified ID solutions.
  4. Celebrate direct relationships with partners like premium publishers who sit on rich first-party data that can help inform exciting partnership opportunities.
  5. Enhance your measurement set up in platform (trialling server-to-server integrations and probabilistic modelling), whilst considering the bigger picture with macro tactics to complement.

We have an opportunity here to step-change how we do digital, so we must accelerate the pace of testing.

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