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Google’s delays give publishers time for identity experimentation

Every delay in Google's cookie deprecation process gives tech providers more time to improve identity solutions and publishers more time to test them

June 19, 2024 | By Andy Monfried, CEO & Founder – Lotame@Monfried

At this point, publishers know the cookie deprecation drill. You’d be forgiven if you’ve forgotten the very first deadline Google set for deprecating third-party cookies in Chrome. (It was Q2 2022. Believe it or not, they originally announced that deadline in early 2020.) We’ve seen Google extend the deadline twice since then. And they’ve done it yet again. We’re looking at a 2025 deadline, and once more, the digital industry needs to plan and act as though the third time will indeed be the charm. 

A shock? Probably not, all things considered. A disappointment? It certainly is for publishers. In reality, publishers have been building their data strategies over the last few years as though each cookie deprecation deadline will be the one. The stakes are simply too high to call Google’s bluff, considering its dominance of the ad market. 

But while it’s easy, even understandable, for publishers to feel frustrated by this stop-start process, it’s important to remember every delay gives independent tech providers more time to advance their own identity solutions, and gives publishers more time to experiment and test identity solutions. Digital professionals may consider Google the “800-pound gorilla.” However, by extending the cookie deprecation deadline, it might very well end up losing a few pounds.

To some publishers, Google’s latest move on cookies feels different. According to the company’s official statements, they’ve pushed the deadline to get ahead of compliance and regulation concerns. But as they have in the past, publishers suspect Google is punting because their own solution still isn’t positioned to dominate the identity market. If the old 2024 deadline had stuck, Google would risk ad spend shifting away from its walled garden. 

The truth is, Google’s Privacy Sandbox hasn’t caught on in the way some in the industry might have expected. DSPs aren’t spending enough there, and publishers aren’t seeing enough transactions for the Sandbox to be considered “dominant.” Lotame, for one, hasn’t tested the Privacy Sandbox, simply because we’ve seen zero interest and demand from our marketer clients. So why is that? One likely answer is that publishers and advertisers are seeing other cookieless IDs performing as well as or better than the Sandbox itself.

Google hasn’t cornered the market on identity, and the industry is better off for it. Publishers’ revenue needs and business goals are not uniform, so having multiple identity options can improve their chances of finding the solution that helps them thrive and compete in the media ecosystem. When we look at the third-party cookie deprecation timeline, it doesn’t matter “who started it.” What matters is this delay opens the door for more innovation, more options in the marketplace, and more time for publishers to explore those options. 

We can’t deny that casting a wide ID net – testing multiple solutions – requires time and resources. But some leading publishers are finding that non-Google IDs are providing them a revenue lift already, and are delivering today while the Sandbox remains a question mark. 

It’s just not in publishers’ best interest to sit around and wait for Google to solve their – and its own – identity problems. Publishers need to take matters into their own hands and use this time for testing and experimentation. For those who have found taking action to be daunting, this delay is a gift, and a chance to locate tech partners who can serve their specific needs. Other IDs are demonstrating it’s possible to solve for identity, preserve user-privacy, and drive ad revenue. The time to double down on identity testing is now. Publishers may have to wait for Google, but they can’t wait for performance.

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