Google made headlines this week by announcing a significant change to its stated timeline for the deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome. Specifically, Google now says that rather than being phased out in 2022, third-party cookies will be sunsetted over a period from mid-to-late 2023. Marketers will understandably be wondering how this impacts their planning, but in reality, the net impact is minimal.
All of the challenges facing marketers due to the “cookieless future” are still out there on the horizon — but the horizon has now receded by about 18 months. What this means is that organizations now have a little more time to make the very significant changes required in order to adapt to the loss of cross-site tracking. This should be welcome news because the truth is that many organizations would have been left scrambling by the 2022 timeline.
For example, we now have more time to develop — and then execute — a first-party data strategy. Similarly, we have more time to evaluate gaps in the martech stack, onboard new technologies where needed and train our staff. Just as importantly, there’s now substantially more time to test and learn about — rather than hurriedly spending money on — emerging technologies like data clean rooms.
In sum, from a technical standpoint, not much is changing here aside from the timeline. However, the fact that Google would announce such a significant departure from the previously stated timeline highlights a few other considerations that are relevant to marketers. First and most obviously, it’s now clear that we should treat Google’s stated timelines as hypothetical. For instance, in light of this news, how surprised should we be to find out that the timeline is moving even further into the future?
That may well occur, but marketers shouldn’t focus too much on Google’s timeline. Instead, organizations should be embracing with urgency the transformation required to succeed in the cookieless future. It’s not just a question of being able to beat Google’s deadline; it’s a question of competitive advantage. Regardless of Google’s roadmap, organizations who can get ahead of their competitors will have a clear advantage in marketing performance and accountability.
Separate from the issue of timing, we should all be reminded that Google’s proposals via the Privacy Sandbox are exactly that — proposals. Google faces a variety of pressures from a wide range of stakeholders: increasing scrutiny from regulators, pushback from competitors and industry peers, and increasing demands for privacy from users. All of that means that we shouldn’t just keep an eye on the timing. We also need to continue to stay current on the status of Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiatives. They seem just as likely to change as the key dates themselves.
So third-party cookies live on in Chrome for an extra 12-18 months. A welcome reprieve? Yes. An excuse to deprioritize the transformation of your digital marketing practice? Not at all.