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Google threw more speed bumps at the digital media industry Thursday by announcing it would delay its deadline for third-party cookie deprecation by nearly two years. While the impact will be felt far and wide, it highlights an overall lack of readiness — by Google and the industry alike — and the need for a cookieless future that benefits consumers, advertisers, and publishers.
We know now that it was an overreach for Google to assume it could independently solve an issue that has stymied ad tech’s major players. That is a lesson for Google. For the industry, there’s a lesson and an opportunity for businesses to take greater control of their own identity and consumer engagement strategies. This is a chance to collaborate, and to design the future of identity together.
Google explained why its initial plans to dial down third-party cookie use in early 2022 had to be pushed to late 2023. It seems that its own new identity solution, FLoC, won’t be ready by the end of this year. FLoC has had its share of critics already, including ad tech companies that accuse Google of trying to gin up broad industry reliance on FLoC as a quick identity fix, and privacy advocates who argue that FLoC is no better than third-party cookies when it comes to data privacy. Further, FLoC has been delayed internationally due to regulation challenges like those presented by GDPR. From the outside, one could easily get the impression Google was aiming to consolidate its market influence by disrupting the tools the market relies on. Its announcement said the “web community” needed more time. Let’s hope that’s not lip service and that this time Google wants to listen to the community.
Building a framework for the next phase of identity was always going to be a challenge, and Google isn’t the only player in this game. New changes from Apple and Firefox, among others, have served as a catalyst. As an industry, we need to put consumers back in the center of our equations and create solutions that meet their needs, while driving meaningful connections and ROI. It can be done. Google’s delay should be taken as an opportunity to test, learn, and put consumers first.
The future of identity lies in the ability to leverage direct, consumer-consented sources and to be smarter about signals that are not attached to a consumer’s identity. Without that, we are playing the same game we have been playing for years. We will be plagued by the same regulatory issues and consumer concerns. Our industry needs to be able to build a scalable, consent-driven, first-party consumer base and solutions that provide for meaningful connections without the need for identity. That is the way to drive relevant, meaningful connections and to create a clearer value exchange.
This delay gives publishers and demand partners the chance to co-author more of the future rather than penning quick reactions. And the companies that are truly consumer-first now have the mainstage. Those who are reliant on third-party IDs, however, are simply in a two-year extension to figure out what to do.
Chrommegeddon or not, ID-less inventory exists today, making the status quo of planning, targeting, buying, and measuring more challenging. As solutions are developed to address that inventory, advertisers and publishers have an opportunity to continue to connect with consumers, but to also extend their reach and growth well before 2023.
Industry stakeholders should move quickly to look at existing cookieless solutions and test their effectiveness. We can’t wait for 2023 to get our ducks in a row. Cookies are an archaic technology, the internet’s horse-drawn carriage, and future internet standards shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of one company. Those of us in the digital-advertising community extend our help to Google — let’s design the future together.
Iván Markman is Chief Business Officer at Verizon Media.
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