Hello deja vu.
Once again, Google has sent shockwaves throughout the advertising world. That funny feeling we’ve been here before came with the news that Google is delaying plans to phase third-party cookies out of its Chrome browser until 2023, a year later than expected.
The so-called “cookiepocalypse” is now at least two years away, giving marketers and media owners added time to adopt and adapt to a solution for post-cookie addressability. Alternatives already exist thanks to cookieless environments — Firefox and Safari. Now there is time to fine-tune those solutions, test, iterate, and iron out any kinks.
Testing should top everyone’s priorities, for obvious and less so reasons. Google may very well use this buffer to develop a closed system as its cookie alternative. A wait-and-see approach is a recipe for disaster. Chrome makes up 60% of the market, a sizable chunk of addressable audiences. The other 40% of the market (Safari and Firefox) have already eliminated third-party cookies, so now is the perfect time for marketers to test identity solutions and optimize campaigns by comparing cookie vs. non-cookie environments.
Why the delay happened, and why it’s a good thing
What gives Google? On the surface, the delay may have surprised some, but on closer reflection, it was a prudent decision.
In the UK, Google was already working with the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), and agreed to give them some control over the date of the transition. It also seems like Google needed more time to provide a strategy to interoperate with other solutions.
But two years? The length of the delay to 2023 certainly raised eyebrows. Will Google use the time to collaborate with other solutions or develop a proprietary-only identity solution that won’t have to interoperate with others?
Anything is possible.
Either way, marketers can be thankful that they have more runway. There are plenty of options, from first-party data to contextual targeting to unique identifiers. And now the deadline has been extended to perfect them, so to speak.
Frankly, the industry was racing towards a solution, and many were not prepared. The delay gives them time and opportunity to learn, test, and determine the best suite of solutions to improve monetization, prospecting, performance and more.
The potential downsides
Before we throw Google a parade, however, some concerns are more valid than others. If Google develops a single-lane identity solution, it will threaten the vitality and viability of the global open web. Why? Google would effectively own the market. Marketers would have to go through them (monopoly, much?), which would be bad for the industry and worse for free and fair competition.
The delay also means that the industry will have to front the cost for expensive and inefficient cookies for longer than anticipated. Cookies are an obsolete technology, and the cost of perpetuating them translates to less time and energy devoted to finding new solutions.
Whether Google will delay past 2023 is anyone’s guess. Uncertainty breeds fear and distrust. Google, for its part, has been mum on any concrete answers at the moment.
What the industry can do
If Google chooses to go it alone, the rest of the industry needs to step up and make sure they have solutions ready to combat it. Companies must prioritize solutions that protect and enhance data connectivity, addressability, and consumer privacy across the global open web. And with the delay, they have plenty of time to do that.
Cautiously optimistic is the best approach to Google’s news. The industry has its marching orders: work together to provide feasible cookieless solutions and continue to keep Google in check.
These next couple years will be critical, and will dictate how the industry moves going forward.
Andy Monfried is the founder and CEO of Lotame.