Cookies: Stay of Execution

Google's cookie jar remains stubbornly full as they hit 'snooze' on privacy changes...yet again. Why digital advertisers are more 'wait watchers' than 'weight watchers.'

Travis Lusk
Travis Lusk

Google's Third-Party Cookie Retirement Saga Continues: In a move that shocks absolutely no one, Google has once again pushed back its deadline to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome. This latest procrastination marks the third delay since the initial announcement in January 2020.

Reasons for the Persistent Delays: Google claims it requires additional time to digest and act upon feedback from an array of voices, including industry professionals, regulators, and software developers. Crucially, Google underscores the need to allow the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) adequate time to thoroughly review all pertinent data and outcomes from ongoing industry experiments.

The CMA's Stance: The CMA has been vocal about its concerns with Google's proposed alternative to third-party cookies, the Privacy Sandbox. The regulatory body has highlighted issues that could potentially allow anti-competitive practices and has emphasized the necessity for further tests and modifications. These are needed to ensure the new framework does not disproportionately favor Google's own advertising solutions.

Industry Response: The advertising sector has been keenly observing these twists and turns, with many insiders expressing little surprise over the latest postponement. Recent surveys reveal that 39% of marketers now anticipate the cookie phase-out will not take place until at least the second quarter of 2025.

Google's Ongoing Commitment: Despite these recurrent setbacks, Google maintains its dedication to eliminating third-party cookies, continuously engaging with the CMA and other stakeholders to address the lingering concerns. The tech giant is hopeful to initiate the cookie phase-out by the early part of next year.

Consequences for Digital Advertising: These repeated delays and the surrounding uncertainty carry profound implications for the digital advertising landscape, where third-party cookies play a pivotal role in enabling targeted advertising strategies. It’s imperative for the industry to brace for this inevitable shift and start investigating and integrating alternative data collection methodologies.

Analysis: This series of postponements underscores the dilemma Google faces as it attempts to reconcile privacy enhancements with the operational demands of the digital advertising ecosystem. Or...said another way...regulators are on to the pandora's box of anticompetitive behaviors this unlocks. But maybe that's just me.

Why should brands care?

The ongoing delay in phasing out third-party cookies should ring alarm bells for brands and digital advertisers. This shift is not merely a technical update; it's a fundamental change in how consumer data can be collected and leveraged online. Brands and advertisers need to understand several key implications:

  1. Data Strategy Overhaul: As cookies fade away, the necessity for robust first-party data strategies becomes paramount. Brands should accelerate the development of direct customer relationships to gather actionable insights without relying on third-party data.
  2. Privacy-First Advertising: The emphasis on privacy is reshaping consumer expectations and regulatory landscapes alike. Advertisers must adapt to these changes by embracing privacy-first advertising technologies and methods that respect user consent.
  3. Innovation and Adaptation: The delay provides extra time for innovation and adaptation. Brands should use this period to test new technologies like contextual advertising and predictive analytics which don’t rely on individual tracking.
  4. Regulatory Compliance: With regulators like the CMA closely monitoring these changes, compliance becomes crucial. Brands must stay informed about regulatory developments to avoid potential legal pitfalls.
  5. Competitive Edge: Those who adapt swiftly and effectively to a cookie-less world could gain a significant competitive advantage. You've got more time now. Being proactive rather than reactive in this transition can set a brand apart in a crowded market.

Understanding and preparing for these changes now will be crucial for brands. Almost none of you are prepared for this change. You've been given a temporary stay of targeting and measurement execution.

Don't squander this opportunity.

Continued Reading

Google Won’t Pull Cookies In 2024 | AdExchanger
Google announces it’s delaying its self-imposed deadline to deprecate third-party cookies on Chrome for the third time.
Google delays third-party cookie demise yet again
For now, Google seems to have next year in mind as the latest end date for its plan to eliminate third-party cookies.
UK’s CMA Raises Concerns, May Delay Google’s Third-Party Cookie Phase-Out
The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has voiced concerns that could potentially delay Google’s planned phase-out of third-party cookies. The
Advertisers are not fully prepared for the demise of third-party cookies, WARC says
The latest Future of Measurement report reveals that only 2% of advertisers are using a mix of MMM, experiments, and attribution, for measurement.

Travis Lusk Twitter

Opinionated digital advertising practitioner, consultant for Fortune 100 Brands, and writer at