In a move that is causing consternation across the world, Google has announced plans to drop support for 3rd-party cookies from Chrome in 2022. Cookies have long been the backbone of internet marketing efforts, and they’re what lets advertisers follow you around with banners for sites you visited in the past. (They’re also what lets sites remember your preferences, your log-ins, what’s new since your last visit, etc. etc.)

As a result, agencies and advertisers alike are concerned that audience targeting methods, as well as things like conversion tracking, will become more difficult in the future.

Privacy Concerns & 1st Party Data

This isn’t the first time that cookies of various types have lost support. Safari, followed closely by Firefox, started automatically blocking tracking cookies back in 2017, and apparently, publishers in countries where Firefox is a more popular browser have seen noticeable reductions in their impressions since tracking prevention was implemented.

With Chrome currently being used by more than 50% of the world’s internet users, publishers concerns are understandable, and a similar, if not larger, impact will likely be felt.

Concerns are also probably at the heart of what is causing this roll-back of support. Privacy concerns.

Privacy Scandals

Google (among other leading tech platforms) has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years with regards to their treatment of user data, and increasing pressure to improve their privacy measures, and reduce the amount of data they maintain.

The sale, trading and sharing of 3rd-party data is becoming increasingly unacceptable in the new digital world, and as a result, the new holy grail will be 1st-party data. Your own data, collected from your own clients, with their consent. Building audiences in other ways is going to become increasingly more difficult, and our own upcoming implementation of the POPI Act will increase the value of 1st-party data here too.

The Effect On Advertising

It seems certain that there will be some kind of effect on advertising of course.  In a worst-case scenario, it may become impossible to do things like remarketing, for example, and in theory, even full conversion tracking might be affected.

However, since I find it difficult to believe that Google would willingly give up its tracking and targeting features, I’m fairly confident that by the time support is withdrawn, they will be offering an alternative way of tracking for targeting / conversion purposes.

One option, of course, is just to change the definition of a 3rd-party cookie. The cookies used by Google for example, are dropped by the sites which are doing the advertising, making them 3rd-party. However, they are technically Google cookies, since they’re used for tracking etc. on their advertising platforms.

Perhaps they’ll simply declare all their own cookies “2nd-party” cookies and continue allowing those.

It’s too soon to really start guessing, but although it seems like it could be a blow for advertisers, I suspect that practically speaking, things will continue almost, although certainly not entirely, unchanged.