With Google’s recent announcement that it’ll phase out third-party cookies in 2023 to launch Google Topics, the world of cookies is in the midst of an evolution. Or a meltdown, depending on whom you talk to.
Advertisers fidget en masse when a change is announced in the digital world. Suddenly, there’s no milk or bread in the grocery store and Armageddon is upon us — or so this is how many advertisers react. So, given that millions of ad professionals currently rely on third-party cookies for targeted advertising, Google’s phaseout will be either a major catastrophe or a pioneering opportunity.
A Whole New Cookie-Free World
Panicked concerns about the loss of third-party data in the past have proved to be melodrama. However, it takes intelligence to adapt to change, and the phasing out of cookies is no exception. It’s important to consider how to adjust advertising strategies to make ads work without cookies.
Many companies are already doing this. In preparation for the retirement of third-party cookies, digital players have spent months wondering what solutions can be the most successful in the future. First-party data, Universal IDs, and Google Topics have all been tried as solutions by several companies already, with companies either finding their match or abandoning ship for another way to advertise.
By testing each one (either alone, a combination, or all of them), your company can decide which one — if any — is most beneficial to utilize.
- First-Party Data – Going back to basics with first-party data can never steer an advertiser wrong. This direct connection to consumers is the most reliable way to know how to market to a target audience, and most media professionals don’t realize how much of a treasure trove they have to work with. Email lists, CRMs, site downloads, social media, customer surveys, and several other ways of gathering data can exist within a company — without that company having to purchase consumer information from other sources.
- Universal IDs – Universal IDs are single identifiers that recognize a user across multiple platforms. They present information associated with that masked, unknown user to approved partners. Unlike third-party cookies, Universal IDs address users’ privacy concerns. At the same time, advertisers can create and share an ID with first-party information for the needs of the entire digital advertising ecosystem. This ID can be used across all media: social channels, Google ads, display ads, banner ads and digital TV. Universal IDs are like the Avengers of all things digital because they allow individual identification across the advertising supply chain without syncing cookies.
But there’s a downside: Using universal IDs to target ads is expensive. A lot of brands, and even agencies, won’t see them as options because their budgets won’t allow them to. By narrowing targets to individual behaviors, identifying consumers and understanding their unique consumer journeys (and employing some AI to overcome personally identifiable information concerns), advertisers can tailor their messaging to consumer needs. They, in turn, fulfill their own needs more effectively and efficiently.
- Make Way for Google Topics … Maybe – Many advertisers thought an all-encompassing solution to Google’s cookie-crumbling news would save them (which is a bit ironic, the murderer and the savior?). However, a lot of those advertisers were surprised when Google announced that it was abandoning Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC, initiatives to move toward the Topics API. At its core, Topics is the same old contextual targeting already present in ad marketing — but with a big new name taped over it. Unsurprisingly, the praise for this solution was short-lived.
Topics doesn’t seem all that great as it currently exists within the Google Ads platform. Advertisers aren’t impressed, and its results are often far too generalized to get anywhere close to the level of granular targeting to which they’re accustomed. For that reason, advertisers are highly interested in what new evolutions can actually come from this tactical targeting savior.
The Post-Cookies Future Is Still Pretty Bright
Google retiring cookies won’t bring about an apocalypse. Newer, shinier ways to target will offer agency and media professionals excellent ways of successfully targeting ads to consumers online. Whether it’s with contextual targeting, first-party data, or another method entirely, the exact method will be a challenge only overcome with ingenuity and innovation.
With great data comes great power. We’re still going to be able to target; it’s just going to look a little different for every company. However, starting immediately will provide the most optimal opportunity to gain traction, so don’t delay.