On January 14th, 2020 Google announced plans (statement heresample coverage herehere and here) to phase out third-party cookies by 2022.  At present, there is little additional information available. However, we’ve compiled some of what we anticipate to be the most common questions here in this brief FAQ.  

Q: Does this impact me? 

A: There is no immediate impact. This change is tied to a wider discussion about the long-term health and monetization of the web. However, with the two-year timeline, this sets a general timeframe for implementing solutions currently being discussed by industry bodies, regulators, and working groups.  Advertisers using third-party cookies will not lose the ability to advertise tomorrow. 

Q: As an Adform client should I be concerned? 

A: Not at all.  Adform has a long history of being at the front of privacy-centric, consumer-oriented, advertising.  We were early adopters of GDPR, a pivotal member collaborating in the launch of the DigiTrust identity framework, and are actively engaged in providing technology that give advertisers and publishers a route toward highly effective advertising that respects the privacy of consumers. The alternative mechanisms to third-party cookies proposed by Google Chrome as well as first-party cookies and data will become pivotal to how targeting and measurement can continue to function with better privacy and consumer control. 

Q: Does this mean that the ability to deliver targeted messaging will end? 

A: Not at all. These changes are about balancing a consumer’s right to privacy and positive browsing experiences with ad-subsidized content and marketing messaging which is highly relevant to them. Zero-party and first-party data will become increasingly important, while broader tools are developed that replace cookies and solve their failings while providing improved control. 

Q: Should I be concerned about my ability to advertise moving forward? 

A: Not at all, but it will evolve. While a host of subscription-based services have become increasingly widespread across the web, and as major publishers have added paywalls to supplement their income, user sentiment and a desire for ad-subsidized “free” or reduced cost “ad-supported” solutions has never been stronger. An increasingly attractive alternative are the rise of freewalls, capturing consent, and user data, while still providing ad subsidized content. Consumers’ wallets are increasingly under pressure by subscriptions while a desire for a diversity of services, news sources, and media remains high. What is evolving are the protections in place to offset new tracking and profiling technologies, and the consumer’s understanding of the value advertising provides to them. This comes with some educational growing pains, but ultimately, we believe it leads to a better-informed consumer, cleaner ecosystem, and superior web experience. 

Q: Adform has previously communicated participation in a variety of industry initiatives such as the IAB Tech Lab. What does this actually mean? 

A:  Privacy is a long-standing priority built into everything Adform does. Hopefully you’ve joined our series of webinars on the topic, our seminars and stage presentations at industry events, read our white papers, and previous communications about the topic.  

Our participation in the IAB Tech Lab, CCPA and TCF commit groups, policy groups, and organizations like the EDAA are focused around setting best practices and building neutral technology tools and standards that provide a healthy and vibrant digital ecosystem.  This means working closely with regulators to educate, inform, and incorporate important changes. It means working to evolve the technologies supporting digital advertising as the nature of the web itself changes. And most importantly, it means building powerful technologies that do not put individual organizational gain ahead of the best interests of the broader ecosystem.  Providing solutions to the challenges facing the industry also requires elevating the dialogue beyond buy-side solutions, sell-side solutions, or tech solutions built to co-opt industry solutions into competitive advantage.  

Q: What is the W3C and why is it important to the discussion? 

A:  The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. Led by Web inventor and Director Tim Berners-Lee and CEO Jeffrey Jaffe, W3C's mission is to lead the Web to its full potential. Having an advertising supported web is a cornerstone of the internet as we know it today. By establishing standards for OpenRTB and its handling, the W3C will help provide a clear and more uniform set of standards that will address key concerns about how to balance an advertising supported internet, and consumer privacy.   

Q: What steps are Adform taking to prepare for these changes in partnership with Chrome? 

A: Following the announcement of changes in Safari and Firefox, Adform has been working for more than a year on supporting a world based on first-party cookies, IDs, and data. These updated capabilities will naturally also be applicable to shaping how we interface with Chrome. The expansion to include Chrome’s privacy friendly APIs is a natural extension of this, and we anticipate other browsers will launch similar alternatives to third party cookies. Examples of these innovations are Adform’s identity and cross-device engine, which supports advanced linking of IDs including distinct first-party IDs and Adform’s ability to support first party-IDs from advertisers, publishers, and consortiums. Both of these are already in operation and support the few but growing number cases of publishers implementing first-party IDs. 

Q: What are the next steps for me as an Advertiser? 

A: Focus on building meaningful relationships with your audience. While the nuance of the tools will evolve in the next two years, the core impact will be minimal and we’ll be working closely to support you. 

Q: What are the next steps for me as a Publisher?  

A: This is further confirmation that server-side, first-party based login solutions will continue to be the way forward for publishers. For publishers that have not already pivoted to this approach, they’ll need to take fairly rapid action. Publishers should also consider adding a freewall login layer to further support their ability to secure consent and be in direct relation with the consumer.