Third-Party Cookies Remain Google Advertising In The DoJ’s Viewfinder

Google is likely to be sued by the US Department of Justice in September on the grounds that its advertising network is a monopoly. What this means for marketers isn’t yet clear, but there are steps they can take to prepare for the disruption.

The DoJ news comes as Google has again postponed the deprecation of the third-party tracking cookie, this time until the second half of 2024. While Apple blocked third-party cookies several years ago, Google postponed the process of Chrome browser repeatedly as it works with digital advertisers and technology providers to agree on a replacement for anonymous audience tracking which it calls Privacy Sandbox.

EU antitrust authorities have been monitoring Google’s handling of third-party cookie deprecation and display advertising practices for more than a year, raising concerns that Google’s advertising network may control too much of the European market.

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Google’s cookie delays and the looming DoJ antitrust lawsuit are likely unrelated, even though they happened in close proximity, said Constellation Research analyst Liz Miller. Google is caught in a wave between two factions of government regulators: those who want to protect consumer privacy and those who want to level the playing field for small and medium-sized businesses that have been barred from search engine exposure.

No matter how, where, or when this potential antitrust lawsuit plays out, Google’s ad network — whoever ends up owning and running it — will always continue, Miller predicted. She added that it will likely be years before users see any significant changes.

“It’s not going to waver in the next 12 months, and the publicity isn’t going to go away,” Miller said. “I think it’s just going to change who we write our checks to. »

Google provided a press release defending its ad technologies, saying “tremendous competition in online advertising has made online ads more relevant, lowered ad technology costs, and expanded options for publishers and advertisers” .

Marketers are looking for alternatives to fill their funnels

Marketers have already started to see the degradation of anonymized data now that companies like Apple have given consumers the option to opt out of tracking software and regulations like the EU. General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act give consumers more say in how their data is used.

Google’s continued delay in deprecating third-party cookies has angered some marketers, said Natalia Biel, vice chief marketing officer for GetResponse, a Poland-based email and marketing automation provider. His customers who have invested in first-party data technologies just to see Google keep third-party cookies are growing frustrated, Biel said.

At the same time, she said new Google AI tools that govern who sees the ads have been poorly tested. Response rates are down and advertisers are annoyed that they have less control over what audiences look like. Also, the new Google Analytics tools to support new ways of building audiences aren’t working well either.

“It’s a very shady, questionable kind of thing that they reported [third party cookie deprecation], with everything going on,” Biel said. “I think a lot of Google products just aren’t ready…we know how it is with product launches, don’t we?

That said, GetResponse has turned to using first-party data for its own marketing efforts. It also maintains browser advertising campaigns with Google, Microsoft and other localized browsers for its clients in non-English speaking markets.

To obtain this first-party data, GetResponse may invest more in social media campaigns, publishing more of its own gated content and personalizing its web experience. This will support the middle and bottom of the marketing funnel, but Biel is still worried about the replacement of leads at the top of the funnel that third-party cookies and Google ads bring.

“Top of the funnel will be the biggest thing we have to think about – just think about something else that we haven’t done so far,” Biel said. “I think it will be a big challenge. »

DMPs age, quickly

Data Management Platforms (DMPs) manage anonymized third-party data for advertisers – much of it collected by third-party cookies. Adobe’s DMP, called Audience Manager, connects to most ad networks, including Google’s.

DMPs have faced challenges for nearly a decade as Apple Sa’s fari and Firefox browsers deprecated third-party cookies and allowed consumers to disable other personal identifiers, such as iOS Cross-App Tracking, said Ryan Fleisch, Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Real-Time CDP and Audience Manager DMP.

Despite the size of Google’s ad network, up to 40% of Adobe’s traffic and marketing budgets are spent in digital environments where third-party cookies aren’t supported — and that percentage will likely grow as regulators and Google will draw their differences in the name of consumer privacy.

“It puts consumers in a better position, with brands that are in a better position to build real relationships with them, rather than just saying, ‘How can I get so many impressions in front of someone or picked up by everyone? possible ways? said Fleisch.

“I think Google is approaching it correctly in the sense that they want to make this change. I hope that as an industry we can agree that this is the right change to make in the long term, but it would be very damaging if we made this change too soon, without alternative solutions in place. »

That said, Adobe customers still use the data generated by third-party cookies and extract what they can. Meanwhile, however, new and veteran customers are planning for a cookie-free future with a focus on first-party data managed on a CDP.

That scenario is coming, Fleisch said. Adobe doesn’t yet have plans in place to deprecate its DMP like Salesforce has, but some Adobe customers have started to increase the use of CDP and build marketing operations around their own data as they reduce the use of the DMP. Companies currently working on it will take the lead in their markets.

“If you can start preparing for those dates that are still two years away now – start doing the tests and getting your house in order – it’s going to be beyond you; probably more than half of your competition won’t be ready,” Fleisch said.

Companies that rely too heavily on data from third-party cookies to drive their marketing efforts should pause to think about the business drivers behind the strategy, Miller said.

If it’s because they rely on ad networks that are in the crosshairs of government authorities and privacy advocates to find their audience and save a little money in the process, “it’s time to find better ways,” she said.

Don Fluckinger covers enterprise content management, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, customer service and enabling technologies for TechTarget.

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