Google’s Third-Party Tracking Will Remain—for Now

Earlier this year, Google made waves with the announcement that third-party tracking methods (a.k.a. “cookies”) for targeting ads to possible customers would be discontinued. Marketers who relied on this strategy were, perhaps understandably, upset and concerned at how to pivot. They can now, however, breathe a temporary sigh of relief. (Note the emphasis on “temporary.”)

The time extension

Whether it can be thought of as a “stay of execution” or “divine intervention,” third-party tracking—which was to have disappeared by January of next year—will be permitted to remain in action until late 2023, as Kate Kaye reports in Digiday. Toward the end of that year, gradual elimination of third-party tracking will take place—appropriately enough—over the course of a three-month period.

The concerns about third-party tracking

To recap, the issues surrounding third-party tracking were due to privacy concerns. Users who might click on a particular ad would be recorded by third-party tracking and their browsing habits would be followed and recorded further. These uses would then be targeted and receive ads and offers they have no interest in. This is indeed an understandable concern, and one that Google took serious action toward—albeit, perhaps too seriously and too soon.

Why the extension?

One major reason for this extension of allowing third-party tracking is due to pressure from the government of the United Kingdom. Even though Google’s goal was to appease privacy concerns with the elimination of third-party tracking, this new turn of events in extending “cookies” is believed to be a response to the U.K.’s CMA (Competition and Markets Authority), a non-ministerial government department that is responsible for strengthening business competition and preventing and reducing anti-competitive activities. And this is where the Privacy Sandbox comes into play…

Privacy Sandbox

The aim of the Privacy Sandbox initiative of Google is to: “…create web technologies that both protect people’s privacy online and give companies and developers the tools to build thriving digital businesses to keep the web open and accessible to everyone.” Earlier this month, the CMA began to investigate any impact concerning completion of the Privacy Sandbox, as well as its approach where the replacement of third-party tracking technologies are concerned. Caution and careful consideration are necessary. Remember what happened with FLoC?

Fear of FLoC

As stated, many marketers were thrown into a tailspin with Google’s decision to do away with third-party tracking. Attempts to find alternatives to were theorized and promoted, with FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) as perhaps the most controversial possibility. With FLoC, everything “browser-based,” and users would not be targeted individually. Groups (or “cohorts”) would be visible, and thus harder to single anyone out. This incurred a huge backlash from web masters and content creators—WordPress being the most famous—who claimed that the arrangement of FLoC would dilute already strongly established relationships between advertisers and customers on their clients’ sites. There’s good news for anyone who has been impacted by this: Ms. Kaye noted that Google plans to discontinue its trial of FLoC in the middle of July. In the meantime, marketers must continue to adapt. Hey, there’s more time now.

Who’s on first-party data?

So, the use of third-party tracking will remain for longer than originally announced. Marketers who counted on this type of targeting can relax—but they should not get complacent. Marketers should take this extra time to prepare for the inevitable day when third-party tracking will indeed be gone for good. The most effective alternative to work on is the development of first-party data in connecting ads for brands to prospective customers. First-party data is more transparent and it creates stronger relationships between customers who are genuinely interested and seeking the products and services a particular brand can offer. Customer and brand “know” each other.

If you have utilized third-party tracking technologies for ad targeting, now is the time to make the change to a different means of connecting. EGC can provide help with building a first-party data foundation, along with services that include inbound and content marketingdigital marketing, and social media marketing, among many others.

Get in touch with us today, because the next couple of years might go by faster than you think…