Google’s announcement that they are finally ready to commit to a timeline for making cookies obsolete will mean that the fundamental principles that the vast majority of digital inventory is traded on will see seismic changes between now and the 2022 deadline set out in Googles latest blog post.

There are many possibilities on what this will mean for the digital advertising ecosystem and whilst most of these are positive, there are some potential outputs of this news that only go to strengthen the position of those that made it. Here are some of our predictions on what we believe this change will mean for our clients and the industry at large:

1. The demise of the real-time bidding marketplace as we know it

Google is not the first software provider to block third party cookies by any means. However, when Apple did this, the effect was that we were operating with 70% of available inventory. Google’s announcement now means this will be 0%. Cookies being made obsolete will mean that the millions of impressions that are traded every millisecond in the UK will lose value, with some analysts suggesting costs will be reduced by roughly 50%. This could lead to the role of display being specifically built with a focus on quality. This will mean long-tail publishers will suffer, especially in the interim as buyers struggle to justify their cost.

2. The growth of a 1st party data economy

With no third party data being available to be traded across the board, there will be a race from clients and media brands to understand, enrich and deploy their first party data in more meaningful ways. Decentralising and aggregating 1st party data and then enriching this data with other 1st party data sources will become the norm. New tech around federated data and edge computing will come to the fore.

This could lead to brands working in conjunction with one another to understand more about who their audience is and more importantly, who they are not. Again, size matters and brands with huge amounts of 1st party data will be able to put a premium on their inventor. Even those brands that are not traditionally in the media sales game can look to create new revenue streams. Brands such as Uber, Just Eat and dare I say it, We Work, can finally start monetising their data safely and transparently. 

3. The closure of a truly ‘open’ web

In line with the above prediction, traditional publishers are going to face more of a demand to create their own first-party data sets. This could lead to a closure of the ‘free news’ that we see online from most publishers. Consumers may be required to sign in to access premium content as the traditional value exchange of ads on site no longer washes its face. Brands that have diversified their products through events and have created stronger relationships with their consumers will be in a positive position to deliver this.

4. The (re)emergence of contextual targeting

As has been mooted since the arrival of GDPR, we expect to see contextual targeting come to the fore once again. With less signals to identify exactly who a user is, context and site data (provided by long-standing planning tools such as Comscore and Hitwise) become the strongest identifiers of a user’s potential to engage or convert for a particular brand. Companies such as Grapeshot and ADmantX should see increased engagement from agencies and publishers alike.

5. Huge changes to attribution – both view-through attribution and Multitouch attribution

Google’s deployment of their privacy sandbox will not mean that we will no longer be able to track on-site conversions, as this will be held in the browser as opposed to being shared with other parties. However, the methodologies that we use to attribute conversion, both the rudimental and more advanced, will no longer be available. This may result in a look back to the heady days of click-through conversions, drawing even clearer lines between brand and performance digital comms.

6. A tightening of Google’s Grip on the industry

The creation of the privacy sandbox appears to have given more power to the browser. With 66% of browser activity happening via Chrome, Google has gone some way to even further strengthening its position in the market. Add to this the long term vision of a ‘full-stack’ diet for a lot of clients, Google has effectively become judge jury and executioner of the ecosystem.

Ultimately, these moves should give consumers more control and transparency over who their data is being used by and more importantly, how. It should give the digital industry a long-overdue wakeup call and lead to a better web experience for customers and better buying of media for clients.

Dave Carpenter | Head of Digital