That’s what is about to happen. Last week saw Google announce it will be phasing out third-party cookies from Google Chrome. Chrome represents almost 70% of the market for web browsers on a desktop and 40% in mobile. Safari, Firefox and Microsoft have the rest, and many of them already include ad blockers, cookie-clearing and other tools that hamper digital targeting.
Google is going to offer its own ways to target leveraging Google data, which means if you work at an ad-tech company not named Google (or Facebook or Amazon, for that matter) then your ability to deliver targeted ad messages is going to be severely impacted.
This news does not come as a surprise. It has been rumored for years. And now it is coming to fruition.
Some industry pundits will make claims that this creates an opportunity for new ways to reach targeted audiences by proclaiming their technology does X or Y. These will be versions of fingerprinting or ad-DNA.
In any case, these claims will fall on deaf ears. The truth is that most marketers will see this, understand the impact, and move on. Moving on means they will either work with Google, or not worry about targeting, instead focusing on price.
A world where a third-party solution like the cookie is gone means prices will be pressured to drop to account for the untargeted nature of online advertising outside the Google parameters.
Google will still offer targeting. That targeting will be at a premium because it offers one of the only accurate ways to deliver a specific audience at scale. Outside of Google, ads will be scattershot, delivered to anyone on a platform where they come up.
The only way untargeted ads will work for marketers is if they are lower priced, to account for lower response rates. Then, just maybe, they have a chance to compete.
OTT and digital video ads may still have the opportunity to “target” based on data or context, but display will take a step back because the performance will be harder to achieve.
This does open the door for Facebook, strangely enough. Paid social is a channel where data can still be leveraged -- although that will be using Facebook data on Facebook platforms. The dollars that were still hanging on for targeted display and native ads could easily be seen to shift to paid social, further padding the pockets of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Google said it has no desire to injure publishers looking to make money from ads, and it’s telling the truth. Its intent is to create a stronger sense of demand for Google products, and doing so does mean a negative impact on anyone not currently in its network.
The marketers are the ones who will drive this adoption. Marketers like to work with Google. No matter how many ad-tech companies call, reach out and proclaim to have an amazing solution, Google still gets the benefit of the doubt.
A marketer’s day is busy. There are many demands on our time, and we don’t have hours upon hours to decode and test a new vendor whose solution may be great, but has questions of scale.
Speaking from my own perspective, I like new ideas and new solutions, but I prioritize the ideas that have the most bang for the buck. Most of the time, that defaults back to the larger, established players we currently work with and who have proven to provide scalable value in the past.
So, what does that mean for the industry? It means cookies are about to (finally) become a relic of the past, along with popups, pop-unders and 468x60s. It means the gap between the large players and the smaller niche players is about to widen even further. It means OTT and digital video are about to become the final battlefield for the remaining digital ad budgets.
Here’s to seeing what happens in the next 11 months!