Heads up advertisers: there are some major changes on the horizon regarding new cookie tracking features that were announced at today’s I/O Developer Conference.
Google plans to release an open-source extension that will work across all browsers, enabling users to see what cookies are being used to track them across Google properties and the ability to block or whitelist specific publishers and websites within their user settings.
“Google is now making it much easier for users to opt out as well as be more informed about what’s going on with cookie tracking. It will impact advertising. If you haven’t done so, now is the time to prepare and strengthen your first-party data capabilities.”
-Jodi Daniels, Founder and CEO at Red Clover Advisors
Greater Cookie Controls Focused on Ad Transparency
“Today we’re committing to a new level of ads transparency. We want to give users more visibility into the data used to personalize ads and the companies involved in the process,” writes Prabhakar Raghavan, SVP of Google Ads & Commerce.
“For the ads that Google shows on our own properties and those of our publishing partners, we will disclose new information through an open-source browser extension that will work across different browsers.”
Google stopped short of revealing what the browser extension controls look like or how they work, but we do know that users will be able to see:
• What cookies are being used to track their browsing activity
• The names of the ad tech companies and publishers behind the tracking
• Factors that resulted in an ad displaying
… and have the option to block and whitelist cookies from specific publishers.
What Does It Mean For Advertisers?
Make no mistake: cookies are an important tool for advertisers to track and gather data that is critical to informing user behavior and targeting across the web.
Reducing advertisers’ ability to track and understand user behavior will no doubt affect the efficacy of cookie-based targeting practices.
From the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica data controversy to Apple’s Safari Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) to the wide-reaching data consent and controls of GDPR in Europe and CCPA in California; we’re in the midst of an industry-wide crackdown on third-party data practices that were once taken for granted by advertisers.
The good news is that it isn’t as bad as it seems — progress in privacy protection is in the collective interest of both users and the companies that want to earn their trust.
“This is good for consumers and companies who recognize the need for privacy and trust. For companies to really explain what’s happening on their sites,” explains Daniels.
“It will impact advertising, however.”
“Middle ad tech players may have smaller pools of data. CPMs for quality data will likely rise. Many advertisers will need a more sophisticated approach to make ads more relevant instead of just chasing down what they think is the right target.”
It’s one of the many reasons advertisers need to place more emphasis on creative performance to create relevant and high-quality experiences tailored to the user.
“We should see this as an opportunity to engage with those customers in an improved way. Create compelling content and engaging videos across digital platforms to create a solid, trust-based relationship,” explains Daniels.
“It will impact Google Analytics and it will increase our reliance on first rather than third-party data and our direct relationships with consumers.”
How Advertisers Can Prepare for the Change
Curbing reliance on third-party cookies is a call to action for advertisers and businesses to strengthen their first-party data initiatives with customers.
Here are some ways that advertisers can prepare for the change:
1. Review Your Current Third-party Cookie Processes
“Audit your tags, current collection techniques, and understand how the change will impact your current processes,” says Daniels.
2. Build & Review Your Email List
“Build a strong email list. Don’t forget to employ good email hygiene – list cleanse, GDPR compliance, etc,” says Daniels.
“If deploying cookies in emails, those need to be properly disclosed in email.”
3. Keep Your Users Informed
“Review privacy notice and website to ensure disclosures are clear and timely,” says Daniels.
“Make sure that what is being done on your end is accurately reflected in the privacy notice.”
4. Review Your Overall Data Strategy
“What first-party data do you currently use? Which kind of first-party data could you potentially leverage to better reach your audience?” says Daniels.
“Make sure the use of data in the campaign will not surprise customers.”
At the end of the day, advertisers need to remain agile to adapt to the changing expectations of user privacy and the resulting policies that impact data collection practices.
“This is the start, not the end. There will likely be more shifts, more tools to allow the user to control their personal data.”
Want to learn more?