Google Says Goodbye to Third-Party Cookies: What Marketers & Publishers Need to Know

If you haven’t heard, Google is phasing out third-party cookies, beginning in January. This marks a notable transformation for the Google ad engine. Despite the news first being shared in 2020, marketers, publishers, and ad tech entities are still unsure what the post-cookie ad technology will look like. Will retargeting still be successful? Will ROAS dwindle? Through a slow rollout, Google will be shutting off cookies on 1% of web traffic in the first six months of 2024. Read on to find out what you need to know and how to prepare.

Privacy Sandbox

Google’s post-cookie advertising management strategy transitions away from internet trackers to a comprehensive system: Privacy Sandbox. Privacy Sandbox establishes a series of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to conceal consumer internet activity so participants in ad markets can’t decipher personal information.

The whole movement is geared toward protecting user privacy, but there are questions of trust, transparency, and fairness. Google must execute Privacy Sandbox carefully, so as not to raise concerns from publishers and advertisers about favouring its own ad business.

There’s been limited testing of cookieless advertising as Google only made it possible to simulate advertising via Privacy Sandbox this year. However, there are many advanced advertising tactics, in part thanks to the feedback Google has collected from all sides of the market. For example, Chrome has empowered advertisers to engage in retargeting strategies. However, retargeted ads are only served when there’s a group of 50 people eligible to see it. Furthermore, it hides the identities of the individuals in the crowds of potential consumers online. Google’s goal is to prevent data leakage in the bid stream. This way, bidders can’t reverse engineer transactions to gather precise signals. 

A few demand-side platforms have already been working with Google, testing the Sandbox. Other ad tech firms are set to start testing in January. So far, the infrastructure works with no major issues.

Auction Concerns

Still, there are concerns that Google has made a “black box” of Privacy Sandbox, allowing them to dictate the auction dynamics. Advertisers, as well as supply-side platforms, are apprehensive, feeling that they’re starting fresh with a whole new system. They want to see that the playing field is level and fair for everyone.

Publishers are pushing for the ability to tailor the Protected Audience API to their specific needs. For instance, many publishers use Prebid, an open-source software that runs ad auctions alongside Google Ad Manager. It gives publishers an idea of ad demand beyond Google. Meanwhile, the Protected Audience auctions happen within the browser, where the dynamics could be concealed.


Still, Google insists its demand-side platform, Display and Video 360, doesn’t have a leg up in Privacy Sandbox. The Chrome team is developing Privacy Sandbox independently from Google’s ad business. They’ve emphasized that Google Ad Manager doesn’t share the bid information of other participants with any other auction participants before the auction is complete. Therefore, Display and Video 360 won’t have any more knowledge about the auctions than other bidders.

Google executives claim that Google Ad Manager will run fair auctions; the highest bid wins and Google Protected Audience API demand won’t have an advantage over Protected Audience API demand from other sellers.

But, publishers and their SSPs will have to wait until January to truly test Privacy Sandbox. Only then will they be able to see what customization is possible and how they can manage their auctions through Protected Audience.

There could be benefits to using Privacy Sandbox. The same tech that will protect consumer data will also prevent publisher data from seeping into the bid stream. Publisher data has been used by people doing bid harvesting for a long time. It’s promising that this information will be more carefully controlled and protected. 

What To Do Next?

So, what should you do in preparation for this? First of all, if your advertising strategies are dependent upon third-party data, explore alternatives. Continue to follow the news of the rollout and investigate solutions that can help transition away from reliance on this type of cookie. One recommendation is to consider strategies that can help you leverage first-party data and cookies.

While Google’s Privacy Sandbox solution seems to make sense, many are still concerned that if the industry is dependent on Google for the solution, they can still dominate and control a critical part of the advertising ecosystem.

For adaptable advertising strategies and support, contact us!

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iDIG Marketing is a full-service digital agency that generates meaningful website traffic and drives high-value leads to your organization. By optimizing organic content with paid advertising our custom methodology is adapted to meet your requirements and exceed your objectives.

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