Blog Post

A Programmatic Marketer’s Guide to Navigating Chrome’s Blocking of 3rd Party Cookies

06/06/2019 - Sierra Ducey

At Google’s I/O event earlier this month, it was announced that multiple privacy updates will be rolling out to Chrome users over the course of 2019. The following is a guide about what is being updated to better prepare marketers, media planners, and advertisers for what lies ahead in the digital advertising space.
What’s Being Blocked and Why?
To protect privacy and give consumers the power to choose how and why they are being marketed to online, Google Chrome is updating the following processes:

  • Third-Party Cookie Collection: A major part of this new privacy initiative is the blocking of third-party cookies on the Chrome browser. Before delving more into this policy, let’s look back at what cookies are and what purpose they serve.

First-party cookies are generated when a consumer visits a website for the first time. They store the basic settings and preferences of a user, including their log-in information and shopping cart items. The site remembers this information, thereby improving the consumer’s experience with the site over time. Third party cookies, on the other hand, are the strings of code hosted by an advertiser’s server that record a consumer’s journey across the web. It is this data that advertisers use to display highly-targeted ads to users across digital platforms.
As mentioned in Google’s announcement, the third-party collection process on Chrome is being revamped. The browser will make it simpler for users to block or clear their third-party cookies that have amassed over time without disrupting their first-party cookies. To make this possible, Chrome is requiring websites to formally mark their data as first-party or third-party. Consumers will then be able to see what data is being used to target the ads they see and they’ll be able to keep or remove whatever third-party cookies they prefer.

  • Fingerprinting: Browser fingerprinting is completed when the information used to display a page correctly, (think language preference, IP address, operating system, etc.) is manipulated to uniquely identify a user on the web. Under Google’s new policies, fingerprinting is restrained and will be blocked by default – unlike cookie blocking, which will be opt-in by users.

How Does This Affect Advertisers?
This move – along with the many web-based changes that are being made in GDPR’s shadow – means less data for agencies and advertisers to work with. Third-party data was once used to target ads to consumers at every stage of the shopping journey. If a consumer chooses to remove third-party cookies on Chrome, this no longer becomes a direct possibility. As a result, walled gardens such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google, (where first-party data thrives,) gain more control over the advertising process. Campaign optimization also becomes difficult and highly relevant ads are unable to be served in straightforward ways, making it difficult for marketers to determine if targeted ads are leading to sales. When it comes to digital advertising, brands need to find new ways to reach people in the right places, all while following the rules. Thankfully, there are workarounds to Google’s policies that are transparent, promising, and programmatically focused.
What are the Potential Workarounds?
With third-party cookies lacking, advertisers, agencies, ad-tech companies – any industry touching data – will need to quickly adapt to new digital advertising spaces. Thankfully, multiple solutions exist that abide by the new policies erupting in this era of transparency. Instead of resorting to mass messages that are unpersonalized and less targeted, consider the following options:

  • Re-Engineer Your Cookies: If consumers are opting-out of tracking, think about re-engineering your site’s third-party cookies so they can operate in first-party environments. By doing so, opting-out isn’t an option and your operations will not be so easily blocked.
  • Find Alternate Identifiers: Transparency is on the rise and cookies are losing traction. That being said, ad tech is working quickly to find alternate IDs that can be used to track how, when, and why people peruse the web. Google is advising advertisers to look into the power of email addresses and log-in information. These identifiers are going to become crucial for those hoping to serve targeted ads in the future. And it is always an option to move operations to marketing channels that do not rely on cookie data, such as mobile apps, OTT, social platforms, and so on.
  • Target Content: If third-party data is blocked, retargeting becomes tricky. Opposed to focusing entirely on the individual, think about how your brand can serve ads on different sites in contextual ways. Go above and beyond the person seeing the ad by knowing what the user is consuming and where they are consuming it. Focus on the keywords, topics, locations, and different channels that are relevant to your creative assets and offerings. By doing so, the chances of reaching your target consumer increase significantly.

Google Chrome has more than 60% global market share, which means that these changes should not be taken lightly. Fortunately, it is not yet known how or when Chrome will promote the third-party cookie blocking process. The results will vary greatly depending on where the opt-out button will be found. Perhaps it’ll be a big alert button in the corner of the screen, or maybe a small button under a long settings tab. The possibilities are endless and are not so clear-cut. This is a signal to prepare for programmatic advertising without the use of third-party cookies. And at Digilant, we anticipate these changes and can help your brand navigate these new regulations in profitable, transparent ways. Interested in learning how we can help you through the changes? Reach out to us here.

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