Over a year ago Apple’s Safari browser stopped advertisers from following you from site to site with their Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature. Last week Google’s Chrome update announced their intention to do the same thing …within the next two years!
Why is Chrome following Apple’s lead getting so much attention? Chrome is the dominant browser in US and Europe, and also owned by Google, the dominant force in serving and measuring online ads, which means this behavior will now affect nearly all of the ads on the internet. Advertisers were previously in denial regarding the Safari change because it is perceived as having a low market share, but now understanding the impact is essential for digital advertisers.
What is Impact from this update?
Measurement & Attribution – High
Google’s announcement will mean that 3rd Party Cookies will eventually be rendered obsolete, meaning 3rd Party view-through measurement will be obsolete. View-through measurement refers to granting revenue credit to ads that were merely seen and not clicked on. For example, Google Display & Video 360 won’t be able to track when people are seeing ads they serve outside their own web properties (i.e. outside google.com). This change benefits the search business, which won’t have to give up much credit to display ads. Click-based measurement can continue as normal for search ads. Marin uses first-party cookies today and will be unaffected by the Chrome change.
For view-through conversion measurement, as well as incrementality measurements (the value of running ads in the first place), Marin has been advocating for a while the return to ongoing, automated split testing for adjusting attributed metrics. These tests will tell advertisers the true value of their media investments — and they don’t depend on cookies at all.
Retargeting / Remarketing – High
This announcement probably portends the end of retargeting ads based on tracking your behaviour across the web (At least on a 1:1 basis). For Criteo, AdRoll, DMPs and even Google and Facebook, the removal of support for third-party cookies means their retargeting / remarketing systems based on sites you’ve visited will no longer work.
Whilst surprising, It seems that even the big ad publishers have now deemed these lucrative ads not worth the privacy headache; Facebook have followed this Chrome announcement by just announcing a tool that will allow users to remove all this 3rd party data from Facebook retargeting today.
Redirects – Medium
Despite the Safari changes, URL redirection, where a user’s click takes them first to a tracking server before reaching their intended page, is still commonly used for ad measurement (Google Video 360, Sizmek, Kenshoo etc.). However, with these changes this will no longer track on chrome. We should see redirects disappear completely (Marin has moved away from redirects over the last few years). The end of redirects serves another objective of Google’s which is faster page loads.
How realistic is their timeline? What do we know so far?
We don’t know much about how they will make 3P cookies obsolete right now, and two years in the browser world is a long time.
They only significant updates we have so far are:
- Chrome has recently introduced a new setting which if enabled by a user after Chrome 80 (Releases early February) would stop these cookies from working instantly – the first time this sort of control has been possible on Chrome. But don’t fret as its current default setting is disabled (for now) meaning no change.
- Up until now Advertisers have also been able to get a “fingerprint” of your device on Chrome to target you based on characteristics like your browser configuration, and fonts and plug-ins you’ve installed. Chrome has also just announced a feature to stop this, by only sharing a simplified browser profile with the websites you visit making it even more difficult for data companies to identify you (I.e. not impacted a 3P cookie, but along the same lines).
The Future and How To Prepare
- Make sure the ad measurement data you are using is using 1st Party (and implemented in a way that won’t be impacted by Safari Intelligent Traction prevention which can limit 1st Party data too). Multi-touch click-based attribution is still alive and incredibly useful at indicating where to spend your ad dollars.
- Lift tests continue to increase in importance, especially to understand how your display and social advertising is driving sales in a world where you can’t measure view engagement.
- From Google Ads Management, we expect to see tracking templates deprecated in the next 2 years (As they are for redirects / tracking beacons which will no longer work). Also expect to see remarketing tags shuttered, and a full push for audience tailored ads based on 1st party data connections (I.e. customer match, and Google audience data).
- Chrome’s timeline creates a window for its Privacy Sandbox – the privacy-safe API first unveiled in August – to re-enable some of the key marketing use cases delivered by 3rd party cookies today. Google suggests “Privacy Sandbox can sustain a healthy, ad-supported web in a way that will render third-party cookies obsolete.” If you’d like to get more involved in the industry standards process, you can take a look at the proposals that the web standards community is producing now. Given the impact to google’s bottom line is big, Google released a study last year showing that removing third-party cookies reduced publisher ad revenue by 52%, its likely some of the impacts we’ve talked about in this article will be mitigated by this initiative.