In a March 2021 blog update, Google hammered the final nail into the coffin of third-party cookies.
“Today, we’re making explicit that once third-party cookies are phased out, we will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will we use them in our products,” wrote David Temkin, Director of Product at Google. While the announcement set off a lot of discussion in the broader industry, it’s something that we’ve been prepared for at TUNE since 2018.
Where the Industry Started Out
Beginning with Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) in Safari, third-party cookies have been on the way out the door since 2017. Google announced its Privacy Sandbox initiative in late 2019. In March 2020, Apple started blocking third-party cookies in full by default. This was less than a month after Google restricted cookie tracking in Chrome 80 by changing their SameSite flag to a secure-by-default model.
Because of these updates, many advertisers and networks have already made the change to server-side tracking. In fact, in TUNE, it’s our default setup.
For a breakdown of all the changes to cookie tracking and our recommendations, you can download our white paper, “How to Become a Track Star: Your Guide to Tracking for Performance Marketing Campaigns.”
Where Google Is Going Now
Jumping back to the present, it’s clear that Google’s Privacy Sandbox is just the next step down the path they were already on. The thing that has people talking this time is the big new buzzword Google introduced: Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). This is just a fancy way of saying they are replacing individual, cookie-based retargeting with aggregated, interest-based targeting.
In the FLoC model, as users browse the web, their browsing habits will be used to build an anonymized cohort or audience. Advertisers can then target ads to that cohort using Google Ads. Theoretically, this would keep a user’s personal information private while still providing enough data to be useful for marketing purposes. Developer tests of FLoC began this March, so we’ll have to wait and see if it actually works in practice.
Where Partner Marketing Fits In
So, what does all of this have to do with partner marketing?
Frankly, not a whole lot.
Partner marketing doesn’t need to retarget end users to provide relevant ads to them, since it is based on the publisher and their content. Like Apple’s recent privacy updates in iOS 14.5, I think these moves by Google only help to highlight the value of partner marketing relationships and their increasing importance in advertisers’ marketing mix.
The final point in Google’s Privacy Sandbox announcement is a strong one: first-party relationships are vital. When advertisers partner directly with publishers, it enables them to more easily create a first-party relationship with the customers they acquire through that partnership. Now more than ever, advertisers need to prioritize owning their relationships instead of relying on retargeting or massive reach on Google or Facebook to turn consumers into fans and repeat customers.
If you have any questions about Google’s Privacy Sandbox or about switching to server-side tracking, let us know at [email protected].
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Josh Todd, TUNE's VP of Product, is an innovative product management leader with 12 years of experience in the partner marketing industry. Prior to TUNE, Josh ran an early mobile-focused affiliate network, wrote a marketing blog, and generated thousands of leads for advertisers via targeted media buys.