Joseph Arthur
Feb 29, 2024

'It’s time to move': Google’s VP, Global Ads on cookie deprecation, privacy regulation and AI integration

Google’s vice president of Global Advertising Strategies, Dan Taylor, unpacks everything from Chrome’s incoming cookie deprecation deadline to the need to invest in AI amid legacy systems' privacy-fuelled decline.

'It’s time to move': Google’s VP, Global Ads on cookie deprecation, privacy regulation and AI integration

It may be only February, but already, Google has had an immensely busy 2024. From finally beginning its deprecation of third-party cookies on Chrome to incorporating its AI model Gemini into several of its ad offerings—most recently Performance Max—the search giant isn’t resting on its laurels.

Dan Taylor, Google’s vice president of Global Advertising Strategies, works across the company’s sales, product management and of course, customers. His job encompasses staying attuned to what’s happening across the marketplace, identifying and rectifying customer pain points, keeping an eye on the competition and using the insights gained from this to invest in effective advertising.

An expert in the field, Taylor believes 2024 represents an inflection point for the advertising industry, driven by a combination of trends coming to a head all at once…but exactly what are these trends? And what does this inflection point mean for the future of adland?

The cookieless convergence meets the ascent of AI

According to Taylor, 2024 represents a coming together of “a combination of trends that have already been in place for the past few years."

Among these trends is signal loss, driven by increasingly stringent privacy regulations and cookie deprecation limiting marketers’ access to data.

Taylor says: “Whether it’s [General Data Protection Regulation] GDPR, other privacy regulations or even Apple’s app tracking transparency (ATT), we’ve got less data to work with."

As signal loss increases industry-wide, a potential solution to some of the issues it presents is becoming increasingly popular—AI.

“A lot of this stuff has been running under the surface for a while. We’ve been investing in AI and predictive analysis more and more,” Taylor adds.

“It’s something we’ve been doing for several years now and I think the time has come where AI can really empower businesses right at the time we’re going to need a lot more empowerment. I've been telling folks in and out of the industry that generative AI sort of turned everybody's attention to AI more broadly, largely because it's something you can see—you can feel it in your experience— it's not something that's working quietly and thanklessly in the background.

"But as privacy changes the way digital marketing happens, you need to invest more in AI in order to adapt.”

Google’s investment in AI has been reflected in several front-facing ways, from the launch of its large language model Bard in 2023, to its evolution into Gemini and the subsequent ongoing integrations into Google Ads’ services.

Don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar

GDPR caught many businesses off-guard and plenty of organisations are still at odds with its influence on the industry. However, it shouldn’t have. With ample time to prepare, a proportion of businesses simply waited until it was too late to try and get their ducks in a row for GDPR’s inception.

History tends to repeat itself and funnily enough, when it comes to adland, it appears this adage holds true.

Chrome’s deprecation of third-party cookies has been dangled in front of advertisers for years now, with enough delays to convince many that they have an abundance of time to prepare alternative data collection strategies.

Even across the UK and Europe today, many aren’t convinced that Google is going to hit its H2 2024 total deprecation deadline, citing regulatory issues with the UK’S Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) as a catalyst for holding it back.

However, businesses banking on an extension may get caught out. According to Taylor, within Google “all of our roadmaps, all of our customer communications and all of our engineering investments are aligned on not having third party cookies to work with from the second half of 2024."

“This is an industry that doesn't move until it has to move…and now it's time to move.”

He continues: “Only 30% of marketers, as of January, thought they were prepared for third party cookie deprecation. This was not surprising and we see plenty of publisher and advertiser reticence to invest in long term cookie alternatives while the technology that works today is still here."

“So we've been on a journey for the past couple of years, talking to our customers about how to be ready for a cookie-less future. And in my estimation, there have been no regrets among first movers.”

Taylor cites AI investment and refined targeting, measurement and ad delivery strategies as key ingredients to a successful shift away from third-party cookies and overcoming the subsequent signal loss.

He says tools like Gemini exist to set advertisers up well and “smooth out the bumps as cookies continue to deteriorate."

“The good news is, if you're already adopting these tools then you're well placed to adapt to this future without having to rip out all of your tactics and totally reinvent the wheel.”

Google’s Privacy Sandbox and rebuilding consumer trust

Roughly 80% of consumers are concerned about their privacy and who their data is shared with, but 74% of consumers only want to see relevant ads. This has created a paradox between conflicting consumer desires—it’s almost impossible to have one without the other.

“We see that as an opportunity as much as a challenge,” Taylor says.

“Growing user trust comes in a few ways. For Google's own products and services, what we encourage is for advertisers and particularly publishers too, is to increase the amount of transparency and control they give consumers."

He continues: “One useful strategy is reminding consumers in the moment when their data is being used, how it is actually delivering value. For example, something I’d like to see is when you're looking at Google Maps and looking up a business, for Google to remind you that we’re using your precise location data right now—and if you want to change that setting do so now, in the moment."

“Reminding consumers in the moment when use of their data is actually delivering value to them is far more powerful because they can decide whether or not that data is useful to provide at that moment or whether it's an experience they find creepy or don't want.”

“It's not viable for us to just recreate the same technologies under a new guise.”

On Google’s Privacy Sandbox, Taylor believes it represents how new technologies are required to both meet increasingly stringent privacy requirements and rebuild consumer trust.

He says: “The sandbox is a set of building blocks for ad technology to develop tools for addressable advertising and measurement in a way that doesn't come with the privacy compromises that led to the regulatory regime, platform changes and loss of consumer trust that exists today."

“The industry dug a hole that we're in the midst of digging out of and it's not viable for us to just recreate the same technologies under a new guise, but create the fundamental building blocks to deliver relevant advertising and measure it. That's what we're building for.”

2024 and beyond

In terms of what the future holds, Taylor posits that the inflection point the industry faces this year will force advertisers to sink or swim—adapt or fall behind.

He concludes: “Digital marketing was built on the promise of precision and when that precision goes away, your predictive capabilities need to go up. Fortunately, we think AI is at a point where it’s going to take the industry into the next decade of innovation.

“For businesses, you can either ignore these enforced changes until it's no longer tenable, or you can start investing in AI and become a more adaptable, versatile organisation.”

Performance Marketing World

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