Google Missed Opportunity To Solve Cookieless Advertising: Execs

As the advertising industry prepares for the complete deprecation of third-party browser cookies, some executives believe the great minds at Google could have done a better job of recreating ad targeting for the next decade.

Apple, Mozilla and Microsoft have deprecated cookies in their respective browsers.

In January, Google began replacing the cookie with a set of technology it calls Privacy Sandbox. Several industry organizations and experts have questioned some of the techniques being implemented. 

"I believe Google has missed an opportunity to build something better," said Jeff Green, CEO at The Trade Desk, during the company's earnings call last week. "Increased complexity with decreased functionality is hardly a compelling offering."

Green, who acknowledged that he owns stock in Google's parent company Alphabet, riffed about the 1% trial of deprecating cookies taking place two months sooner than originally anticipated.



In a January blog post, he wrote that Privacy Sandbox is not good for the open internet or Google, and wondered how “all those brilliant minds inside of a nearly $2 trillion company couldn't do better than this.”

Similar to others across the industry, Green believes that Privacy Sandbox is an "incredibly complex product" and is fully understood by very few people.

He believes thousands of Google engineers have spent “more than three years creating a product that takes the industry backwards. "It will cost publishers more and “likely degrade the Chrome user experience for publishers and brands, but especially for users."

Green is not the only industry insider who believes Google missed its chance to build something better, although Privacy Sandbox is a highly complex technology.

GumGum engineers began testing Privacy Sandbox about one month ago, building a simple proof of concept to understand how it works and appreciate how much of a paradigm shift in terms of how the advertising industry has done business.

All the standard ways of setting up audiences, conducting auctions, frequency capping, and measurement is a complete paradigm shift because it brings a lot of this technology into the Chrome browser.

“We started to appreciate it will require more investment from us and every other ad-tech platform to retool everything,” said Ken Weiner, CTO of GumGum, a digital ad platform that uses AI to analyze the content of web pages, videos, and images. “We've put on our roadmap this year to spend more time flushing out the use cases and seeing how we fit into it.”

What is the role of the supply-side platform (SSP) and demand-side platform (DSP) when working with Privacy Sandbox? Green said it was not clear initially, and still is not, meaning how a SSP and a DSP fit into the ad ecosystem with implementation of Privacy Sandbox.

“The Privacy Sandbox technical documents do not use the words ‘SSP’ and ‘SSP,’ so it’s not like they created a specific role for each to play,” he said. “There’s a role of setting up an auction, and being a buyer and a bidder into the action, but nowadays SSPs and DSPs can buy traffic.”

Weiner explained that when the entire auction takes place in the browser and all that is being done is kicking it off in a line of JavaScript, it makes it so SSPs and DSPs can equally have access to the job. The two previously separate functions of the businesses are now converged.

The privacy-safe experience for consumers occurs because all the tracking data remains in the Chrome browser. The piece of software called Chrome will hold the data, but it will not share the information with any companies, including Google.

“From that, a user is supposed to feel that their browsing habits and personal information remain in the browser,” Weiner said.

Many industry participants held off on thinking too deeply about it, because everyone waited for a signal from Google that cookie deprecation would really happen, which came earlier this year. When they followed through with the 1% test, they became more serious.

“A lot of us, GumGum included, didn’t want to invest too much time to understand and prototype Privacy Sandbox until we were sure it would move forward,” Weiner said. “We’re keeping an eye on it, but it’s not as important to us compared with others, but we focus on contextual targeting and understanding a user’s mindset rather than tracking a user or building a profile based on what they have done in the past.”

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