Google has announced it will extend support for third party cookies in Chrome until 2023—one year longer than the original expiration date.
Chrome will begin the cookie phase-out process in stages, starting in late 2022. Publishers and advertisers will be given nine months to migrate their services in the first phase, and then cookies will be phased out over three months beginning in mid-2023, the company has said.
Google had previously stated in April 2020 that it had no plans to delay the blocking of third-party cookies, despite concerns from a group of key adtech companies as they dealt with the impact of Covid-19. But in a blog post announcing the extension on Thursday (June 24), the company said it had become clear that "more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right". Its Privacy Sandbox initiative has faced several roadblocks in its mission to deliver a unified, collaborative alternative to third-party cookies. Meanwhile, dozens of solutions continue to be developed by the adtech industry—none of which have reached significant scale as of yet. As such, the industry remains in the test-and-learn phase as it seeks to figure out the most effective way to transact online without cookies. Chrome’s deadline extension has been roundly welcomed by the advertising supply chain to provide more time to figure this out.
Figuring out a targeting solution that works across Asia-Pacific’s diverse markets is particularly challenging—especially when most workarounds are being developed out of the US. Campaign asked APAC ad experts how they expect the industry to react to the extension, and whether it is enough to come up with an effective, workable solution.
How do you expect the extension to alter plans in APAC? Will progress slow, or become more exhaustive, for example?
Eunice Loh, APAC head of precision, Wavemaker:
"I do not expect the extension to dramatically alter plans in APAC, but rather give everyone more time to plan for upcoming changes. The general sentiment on this topic ranges from some degree of complacency, where it is believed that APAC is a mobile-first market and cookies deprecation have limited impact, to general confusion of the situation, to heightened proactivity on charting an action plan. For APAC, the majority of advertisers sit in the middle of this continuum. This extension will give time for agencies to educate and engage advertisers, and at least get everyone on the same page of what is happening and start making informed decisions about action steps to hedge these impact on their businesses."
Fionn Hyndman, MD Asia, Blis:
"I think that the 'fear' in advertisers, vendors and the general market has been sown to a point that the foot won’t be taken off the pedal. There has been a realisation that many of the current solutions are not fit for purpose, or, in other cases, they need to have far more usage/penetration for them to a viable alternative to the ubiquity of the cookie. I believe many of the new solutions have also created as many questions as they have answered. You have to wonder if questions around the compliance of solutions like FLoC are what is really causing the delay of the removal of cookies. It’s really quite unthinkable that Google got this far down the line with their perceived solution only to realise that it wasn’t GDPR or ePrivacy Directive compliant. So, I don’t see progress slowing, I think the industry has realised it has to find solutions beyond those that exist at scale today."
Colleen Ngo, APAC VP of partnerships & investment, Xaxis:
"We need to remember that the end goal has not changed for us, which is that we need to ready ourselves for when third-party cookies are phased out, and not if. With that in mind, the changes now allow for the Chrome team and for the broader ecosystem to develop solutions at a reasonable pace. There was heightened momentum and a sense of urgency that came with the prior 2022 timeline. I hope and expect for the same momentum to continue, with continued emphasis on responsible testing, adoption, and scaling of solutions."
James Collier, chief data officer, M&C Saatchi Group AUNZ:
"I would hope more exhaustive. Third-party cookie deprecation is one of a number of digital identity challenges the industry is facing. Fractured privacy reform across APAC and Apple's recent announcement around 'iCloud Private Relay' and 'Hide My Email' create real questions around the long-term efficacy of hashed email-based identity solutions and first party data-matching. The industry needs to use the time it's been given to develop more flexible solutions. Solutions that can, if needed, bend to unforeseen regulatory or technology changes."
Andrew Burke, MD of APAC and Growth Markets (India, China, Brazil), Outbrain:
"This is like getting an extension for your school homework—those who have left it to the last minute will be thankful because they can now cram in the work they should have been doing previously. Those who’ve already done the work and made the leap to new solutions will already be looking at the next assignment and figuring out how to ace that test as well. The bottom line is that if you’re in the first bucket, it’s a wake up call to act now. It’s unlikely you’ll get another reprieve, and with so many other services already cutting the reliance on cookies you’re probably already at a disadvantage."
Does the extended plan provide enough time for the industry to get its ducks in a row?
Loh: "There will never be enough time to be completely ready in this disruptive industry, but it does make for good time to educate, audit, plan and do test-and-learn. Within Wavemaker, we have started a three-part extensive training on data readiness for all our precision, strategy and business leads in APAC, and we have also created a cookies dependency audit covering a wide range of topics on measurement, targeting, optimisation, compliance and martech. This audit will help us work with clients to access their current dependency on third party cookies and with that form strategies to combat these changes. We have started our education and audit journey with some of our clients and will continue to dial up these engagements this and next year."
Ngo: "This is a massive revolution in how the digital ecosystem will operate, with no conclusiveness around which solutions will work for everyone. We can only say that there is now better clarity around how we can time the redesign of new solutions. As a resilient, adaptive, and innovative bunch of members in this industry, I am optimistic that the extended timeline will help us reach a better place—one which balances a healthy internet with sustainable business models for publishers to thrive in, all while putting consumer privacy at the centre."
Hyndman: "I think the industry is a little like a goldfish; it grows according to its surroundings. Many industry players, Blis included, have built really strong offerings in market which remove the need for personal identifiers, but the extension will provide more time, and allow more growth of more viable solutions and business models. More time means there is an ability for more evolution of the industry and the available solutions and less of a sense of immediate revolution."
Collier: "The answer is it must. Safari first introduced Intelligence Tracking Prevention in 2017, so the writing's been on the wall for more than four years already. The concern is that near-term deadlines create urgency. We've moved from having six months of runway to 2+ years. That breathing room could be a momentum killer."
Burke: "It’s important to understand there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and advertisers are going to need a few different approaches to replace their current strategy. So this delay gives advertisers the opportunity to road test some and really understand how they need to change with less risk attached. For publishers and businesses like Outbrain the opportunity is to get more advertisers to understand how contextual marketing really works and fine-tune their approach."