Member Guest Blog Post: Cookies and Chrome – putting the user first

Sharon Marshall, Director EMEA Partnerships Solutions – Data Trust at Google, spoke at the IAB Europe Virtual Programmatic Day on 28 April 2020. Here, she follows up on some audience questions about the Privacy Sandbox and the plan to phase out support for third party cookies in Chrome.

The ecosystem we all operate in is changing, and has been for some time. Users expect more – for example in 2019 we saw on average 20m visits per day to the Google Account, which is where users can choose and adjust their privacy settings across all Google products. User demand for additional privacy has led to both increased regulation and stepped-up controls from browsers.

The industry is shifting to meet these higher expectations, impacting the ways data is collected and shared in the digital advertising industry today. These changes create new and important considerations for digital marketers and publishers.

So, we need to ensure the web can evolve to better respect user privacy and at the same time continue to support core business models that keep it working for everyone.

We aim to replace legacy practices with new privacy-preserving solutions, in collaboration with the wider industry. That means finding ways now to improve cookie security and choice for users, while we work together on building privacy-safe alternatives to cookies. I discussed the Privacy Sandbox at the IAB Europe’s Virtual Programmatic Day recently and was asked some questions that I’ll discuss here.

Q How will these changes benefit the end user?

Today, the technologies that allow relevant ads, measure web traffic or prevent fraud can also be used for unwanted tracking across the web.

Primarily we’re talking about third-party cookies and covert tracking methods such as fingerprinting. While users can control cookie-based tracking through browser settings, for example, they can’t opt out of fingerprinting and often have no way to know it’s happening. And neither of these mechanisms is private by default.

We want to move the industry forward with an alternative that improves user privacy while still supporting an advertising-funded web which enables the development of diverse and rich content for end users to benefit from. These changes are focused on giving the user more transparency, choice and control.

Q Without third-party cookies, how will brands reach customers who have previously visited their sites but may not have purchased?

The proposals within the Privacy Sandbox are looking to replace legacy practices with privacy-preserving solutions, all while supporting key business use cases. Remarketing is one of the use cases in discussion within web standards forums as well as within the Privacy Sandbox proposals. We encourage the online advertising community to engage in conversations with the web standards community, either through forums within W3C or with your trade associations, such as IAB Europe, to ensure your use cases are being surfaced and discussed.

Q. Measuring online marketing activities has long been based on cookies – without this direct link to who saw your ads, what measurement solutions should brands, advertisers and publishers pivot to?

It’s too early to tell what the new solutions will be, though there are proposals in the Privacy Sandbox focused on click conversion measurement, reach measurement and frequency capping model calibration. The majority of proposals within the Privacy Sandbox are in the earliest idea phase, and are still being explored and discussed within the relevant W3C forums. Marketers should also think about implementing best practices and investing in privacy-focused long-term strategies built on respecting user choice and transparency, such as first party data solutions and relationships and investing in automation and machine learning to predict outcomes.

Q. Will post-view attribution be available as part of the sandbox?

The ability to support view-through conversions is one of the use cases being discussed as part of the proposals within the Privacy Sandbox. It’s important to remember that the set of proposals currently being discussed is a starting point. Proposals at this stage could evolve, be replaced with other proposals, and in many cases could fork into multiple proposals as new, related use cases emerge.

Q How do these changes impact first party data?

The changes only impact third party cookies – first party data is unaffected. First party data is particularly useful to marketers, because it’s unique to each business and gives clear insights into customers and the types of products or services they ultimately want. Leveraging this data also helps build better online experiences — providing value for customers — and resulting in more conversions and a higher return on investment.

Q Will there be multiple solutions for different browsers?

The goal is for these alternatives to be adopted more broadly across the web, including by other browsers. By engaging in the W3C forums, the entire web community is encouraged to provide feedback to help refine Chrome’s ideas, or propose their own. This is how consensus is achieved for new web standards – and how the best, most complete solutions are developed. That’s the outcome we want, and the reason Chrome is encouraging broad participation in this process. Don’t forget that you can also work with your trade associations – such as IAB Europe – to make sure your views are represented in W3C discussions.

Q Is contextual advertising the answer?

It certainly could be one answer, but it’s not the only solution. We are moving from a precision era to a predictive era of marketing. We know that personalisation is effective in serving users, advertisers and publishers but we need to think about how we do this in a privacy safe way. Many brands and publishers are finding smart ways to do more for the user, with less data. This means that advertising remains relevant, without infringing on user privacy.

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