Unpacking Google’s post-cookie roadmap announcement

Will Google’s latest Chrome update rewrite the rules of the web?

Since Google’s announcement on the impact of Chromes’ latest update on 3rd party cookies, LinkedIn and industry publications have become a spectrum of opinions on the potential implications.

The variety of viewpoints is a direct result of the purposely vague wording Google used in its announcements. For example, what does the phrase “will not support” mean? Does that mean they won’t actively provide an ID-based solution for targeting, measurement and optimisation, but other parties could do so? Or does it mean they will block anyone attempting to do so?

Based on my LinkedIn newsfeed it would seem one-half of the market are of the opinion why Google would allow someone to benefit from IDs when they can’t, therefore the days of IDs are numbered. Whilst the other half think there is potential for other technologies to use a blend of deterministic and probabilistic modelling to carry on using a new form of ID. However, very few are considering the possibility that the plan as it stands, won’t actually go ahead and the status quo will largely remain.

James Rosewell, Director of Marketers at Open Web, is doing an excellent job raising awareness of the potentially catastrophic impact the proposed changes will have across our ecosystem. His lobbying of the CMA has triggered an investigation, and things could develop in the coming weeks. His efforts are also likely to backed by the government, who post Brexit can move much quicker to enforce regulation and are keen to create an advantage for the UK over Europe in all things tech.

This may not be the disaster it may first appear to be for Google as they could position the regulators as blockers against them increasing privacy, providing licence for them to continue business as usual.

You might think, does it really matter? Google said testing showed that FLOC presented only a 5% drop off versus cookies. However, the test was flawed as the FLOC control group used data that would be blocked by the proposed changes to optimise performance. When you think about it, to expect similar results from a methodology that groups browsers into a single cohort (i.e. a browser cannot simultaneously be in multiple cohorts) once a week and provides reporting with up to a 48-hour lag doesn’t seem realistic.

Imagine trying to optimise campaigns outside the walled gardens without the ability for proper tracking or audience insight. You might know you’ve reached 60% of a cohort, but you’ll have no idea which 60% and no ability to create an ongoing journey through sequential messaging and retargeting.

Obviously, this means some of the companies within Google, including DV360 and GCM, won’t be able to operate as they do now. They are the sacrificial lambs to protect the much more lucrative Search & YouTube income streams. Both products have experienced chronic underinvestment in recent times, and there are strong rumours that Google is looking to sell as a token gesture to appease competition commissions.

Given the scale of this impact, updates won’t be felt until 2022. So, before you charge into a project to change everything you do in line with the planned changes, you may want to see how the legal situation unfolds in the next few weeks.

By Ben Foster, Director of Digital at The Kite Factory