Google is about to rock the world of digital advertisers everywhere with a Chrome update that has its third-party competitors scrambling. Come 2022, the tech powerhouse is taking third-party cookies off the table for users of the world’s most popular web browser, a change that will undoubtedly change the entire landscape of paid media, forcing industry professionals to adjust their tactics accordingly. And while Google claims that this move is being made for the purpose of consumer privacy, they’re set to see some significant profits from Chrome’s new policy, causing us to cast some doubt on the purity of their intentions.   

What’s The Deal With This Update?

In January of last year, Google announced their plan to get rid of third-party cookies on Chrome, the world’s most popular web browser. Third-party cookies have long been a cause for concern when it comes to online privacy. Unlike first-party cookies, which can only collect user data on one domain, third-party cookies are used to monitor activity across multiple domains. The comprehensive tracking codes collect data from your browsing history and use it to build a detailed user profile including extensive personal information, hence the eerily specific ads that keep popping up about the sunglasses you put in your shopping cart last week. Such considerable access to information has raised the eyebrows of consumers everywhere, who feel that the technology is a highly invasive impingement on their privacy. The tech giant plans to replace third-party cookies with a browser-based system that places users into groups—rather than profiling individuals—according to their preferences. 

This Is About Data, Not Security

The vast majority of the general public might buy the claim that this update is motivated by consumer privacy concerns, but advertisers are hardly convinced. Let’s be real, your privacy isn’t Google’s top priority.  When you read between the lines, the Alphabet Inc. subsidiary’s update isn’t even about consumers, it’s about power in the form of data. And when it comes data, Google reigns supreme. 

Today’s consumers are part of the Impulse Generation. They want hyper-relevant, customized content that serves their unique needs and interests. Thus, effective advertising assumes the ability to target based on psychographics and behavior, which requires brands to conduct detailed customer research. Platforms like The Trade Desk currently rely on third-party cookies to collect the data they need to help their clients deliver personalized ads. Google, however, does not need to rely on third-party cookies. 

Making up roughly 30% of the United States’ total digital ad spend, it’s no secret that Google already dominates the industry, and the upcoming update will likely cause that stronghold to get even stronger. By getting rid of third-party cookies, Google will consolidate the digital advertising market over competitors by eliminating the performance-driving data of virtually all third-party advertising platforms while still maintaining top notch, individualized user data due to their empire of first-party sources, which includes Chrome, Gmail, Google Analytics, Google.com, YouTube, and the entire Google Workspace, just to name a few. Although other advertisers could try to use logins to collect their own first-party data, the sheer vastness of Google’s array of products makes it unlikely that anyone else’s data will even come close in terms of quality, therefore forcing them to rely on the tech giants to gather their data for them.

Preparing for the Update

There may not be anything you can do to stop the Chrome cookie update from happening, but there are definitely ways to prepare so that you don’t get caught on your heels come January. First things first, if you’re not already using Google for display, you need to start allocating a significant part of your display budget to Google Ads ASAP. Once the update goes live, third party platforms are going to be impaired and they’ll have to rethink how they approach display. Agencies and companies that are still stuck using those platforms will be severely disadvantaged when it comes to their ability to run targeted ads that reach their core audience without wasting money on consumers with low conversion potential, as they will no longer have access to the same detailed data that they do now. Google, on the other hand, will have far better data thanks to their myriad of first-party sources, meaning that anyone who wants to continue using display to drive results will have to look to them for precise consumer insights.  

What’s Next

Arguably even more crucial than changing your advertising platform will be changing the way that you think about marketing altogether. If this change makes anything clear, it’s the incredible and growing importance of knowing your customers. The future of marketing is not awareness or exposure, it’s personalization. For today’s consumers, customization is what drives performance. People want to see content that was made just for them, and that requires data. At the same time, however, the general public’s resounding approval of the Chrome update has made it clear that they also cherish their privacy. As the push for enhanced consumer privacy continues, we can expect similar updates and tighter restrictions in the future. In anticipation of this shift, companies that don’t already do so are going to have to devise results-driven marketing strategies that focus on customer personas, journey mapping, and the likes, so that they can use the data they do have to generate real and valuable outcomes.

At Boston Digital, we produce results for our clients by working with them to build a thorough and accurate perception of who their customers are and what they are looking for. We develop our strategies from the top down, beginning with our clients’ objectives—revenue, customers, leads—and using these to form an acquisition model that will best achieve their goals. This requires getting the most out of our data by using the information we have to work with our partners and articulate their stories in a way that resonates with their target audience rather than trying to appeal to everyone. Such skills are essential to devising marketing that is effective and efficient. Moving forward, it will be imperative that marketers not only align themselves with the best sources of data (Google), but also that they know how to use it in a way that truly captures consumers.

TL;DR 

Didn’t have time to read the full article? Check out our video to get a quick summary of what you need to know about Chrome’s cookie update.  

 

If you have any questions about launching a paid advertising campaign that is optimized for today’s consumer and takes advantage of tomorrow’s trends, please reach out to me at mwallace@bostondigital.com to learn more.

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