Third-party cookies remain as Google advertising in the sights of the DoJ

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 they can take steps to prepare for the disruption.

The news from the DoJ comes as Google has again postponed abandoning 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 for the Chrome browser on several occasions as it works with digital advertisers and technology providers to agree on a replacement for anonymous audience tracking which it calls the 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, over concerns that Google’s advertising network controls too much of the European market.

Google’s cookie delays and the DoJ’s impending antitrust lawsuit are likely unrelated, even though they happened in close proximity, said Constellation Research analyst Liz Miller. Google is caught in a riptide 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.

Regardless of how, where, and when this potential antitrust lawsuit plays out, Google’s ad network — whoever eventually owns and runs 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 fall apart 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 such as the General Data Protection Regulation. EU 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 proprietary 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 ads have been poorly tested. Response rates are down and advertisers are annoyed with having less control over audience appearance. Also, the new Google Analytics tools to support new ways of building audiences aren’t working well either.

“It’s a very shady, sleazy kind of thing that they’ve been reporting [third party cookie deprecation]with everything going on,” Biel said. “I think a lot of Google products just aren’t ready…we know about product launches, right?”

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 customers in non-English markets.

To get this first-party data, GetResponse can invest more in social media campaigns, publish more of its own gated content, and personalize its web experience. This will support the middle and bottom of the marketing funnel, but Biel still worries about replacing the top of the funnel driven by third-party cookies and Google ads.

“Top of the funnel will be the biggest thing we have to think about – just think of 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 which is 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 Safari and Firefox browsers discouraged 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 advertising network, up to 40% of Adobe’s traffic and marketing budgets are spent in digital environments where third-party cookies are not supported – and that percentage will likely increase as regulators and Google will eliminate their consumer privacy name differences.

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

“I think Google is approaching it correctly in the sense that they want to make this change. Hopefully we as an industry can agree that this is the right change to make in the long run, but it would be very detrimental 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. All the while, 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 happens, Fleisch said. Adobe has no plans yet to deprecate its DMP like Salesforce has, but some Adobe customers have started accelerating the use of CDP and building marketing operations around their own data as they depreciate. the use of the DMP. The 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 competitors won’t be ready,” says Fleisch.

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

Lance B. Holton