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  • Frank Gussoni

Disappearing Cookies & the “Privacy Sandbox”: This digital targeting dilemma is not child’s play.

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

It’s all over the news now. Third-party cookie data is going away! For nearly 25 years, marketers have been utilizing third-party cookie data for targeted, display and behavioral advertising. It’s been the resource they have turned to, to ensure their ad campaigns were delivered to a relevant audience and how they sold increased effectiveness and ROI.

This change in the use of third-party data isn’t new. Ad blockers have been offered for nearly a decade. So why is there so much hype now? In one word…Google. Google announced a couple of years ago that they would be doing away with third-party cookie data but as the time for this to happen is coming upon us, the interest in what will be replacing it and how it will affect marketing opportunities has become of great concern. With Google holding more than 60% of all web browsing happening through Chrome, marketers have every right to be concerned.

Google will tell you that this is all about offering an improved and secure user experience. That their focus is on the privacy of their users and the fact that people are demanding more transparency with respect to their own data and how it’s being used. They had to step in and do something about the privacy issues, right?

It’s not that Google is going to stop collecting data on their users or supplying ads to them, they just promise to do it in a more secure and private way. Google is simply going to gather user data, which of course will be kept locally in the browser and group the user’s IDs into cohorts which will make it difficult to identify any unique individual.

This cohort data, being called “Federated Learning of Cohorts” or FLoC will be available for marketers to use for future targeting needs. And how will marketers have access to this information? Through Google’s new ad targeting tool called “The Privacy Sandbox”! It’s being promoted as a way for marketers to continue to have the opportunity to publish ads to the right audience while still offering their users data privacy.

No matter how Google tries to sell it to them, marketers don’t necessarily see this as a fair trade. For one, Google will still own first-party data and how they choose to use it will be solely up to them. Seeing that they have their own internal advertising sales teams, this clearly offers them an unfair advantage and the opportunity to grow their own bottom line. Not that anyone would be surprised by that.

Rather than focusing on all the areas that we (as marketers) can’t control, we need to adjust our plans to offer things we can. It’s time to shift budgets to continue to offer our clients the best ROI possible. Revisiting contextual advertising is a good first step. While it may seem silly to go back to something, we did years ago, contextual advertising guarantees that an ad is being placed near content that is relevant to it. Of course, running an advertisement for beer will work best on a page that is talking about Oktoberfest!

And don’t forget all the options that are out there via Single Sign On (SSO), First-Party Data Software, and People-based targeting. Facebook is still going to be a big advertising competitor for Google. Heck, they’ve even started an ad campaign called “Good Ideas Deserve to be Found” where they encourage people to not be afraid of targeted advertising but to embrace its personalized nature and offerings. They, just like so many of us in the advertising industry, know how important targeted advertising is. Consumers can actually benefit from this type of advertising and it opens doors to discovering new things that the consumers would actually want to see and will appreciate.

As someone who has worked in media and advertising for nearly three decades, I can promise you that all of these “big changes” with respect to third-party data will shake out. This isn’t the first time our ad industry has had to deal with a major shift and it certainly won’t be the last.

However, you and your agency need to understand how this shift will impact your data needs, your cross-referencing capabilities and stay abreast of all the industry changes or your company will get lost in the shuffle. Your agency must have a new plan in place prior to this total conversion that will effectively replace the “old school” way of consumer tracing. If not, then you’ll be likely talking to the tree in the woods.



President & Founder of A3 media.

We’re Type A. We transform media from an expense into a smart investment.

Frank’s Take provides uncommon sense media buying advice for regional and mid-market businesses.

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President & Founder of A3 media. We’re Type A. We transform media from an expense into a smart investment.

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