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As Chrome delays third-party cookie deprecation yet again, here are the winners and losers

The news: Google is postponing the implementation of its plan to remove third-party tracking cookies from its Chrome browser yet again, to the second half of 2024, per Insider.

  • In a post after the news broke, Google Privacy Sandbox VP Anthony Chavez wrote that the advertising giant had received “consistent feedback” that stakeholders needed “more time to evaluate and test the new Privacy Sandbox technologies” before Chrome deprecated third-party cookies.
  • Google said that it will extend developer testing for its Privacy Sandbox technologies and start allowing Chrome users to trial the new environment beginning in August.

Deja vu: We’re not accidentally re-running an old story; if the sequence sounds familiar, it’s because this has happened before. In January 2020, Google had stated that "within two years" it would stop supporting third-party cookies in Chrome. However, last year, Google extended the deadline to late 2023.

Half (50%) of US publishers feel the deprecation of third-party cookies could be an opportunity to differentiate via their own first-party data, up from 25% who said the same last year, according to Teads. Knowledge about cookies has also increased, with 30% of publishers saying they had a “strong understanding” of cookies compared with 23% in 2021. The number saying they had “limited to no knowledge” dropped to just 6%.

The winners: Considering they’re still dealing with Apple’s privacy changes, inflation, and fluctuating ad expenditures, many should be breathing a sigh of relief.

  • Early adopters “have a chance to further refine their strategies and prove out effectiveness against historical cookie-based metrics, and may be able to take off the training wheels before the deadline hits, which would be ideal,” says analyst Evelyn Mitchell.
  • Adtech firms that have benefited from the cookie regime should stand to benefit in the short-term. Following the announcement, The Trade Desk, ironSource, and PubMatic all saw gains surpassing the market at large.
  • Other browsers, such as Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari, have made the decision to disable third-party cookies by default to appeal to privacy-conscious consumers. Though admittedly it’ll be hard to take much market share from Chrome, this new delay will allow these players to consolidate their hold on such consumers.

The losers: This could be a blow to upstart vendors who are trying to woo brands and agencies to their post-cookie solutions.

  • On Wednesday, Seedtag announced over $250 million of funding for its cookieless contextual advertising solution. While other vendors will undoubtedly look to introduce post-cookie alternatives, the pushback of the deprecation date could make it harder to sell these solutions.
  • Procrastinators may even count on yet another delay that never comes. While many brands, agencies, and publishers became more prepared for the cookieless future in 2022 than the year prior, there are laggards who undoubtedly will wait until the last second to get their houses in order.

Jury’s out: Google isn’t a exactly a loser here—it’s showing it’s responsive to stakeholders, after all—but pushing a major deadline back repeatedly isn’t a great look.

  • Only 13% of US publishers were firmly committed to Chrome's Privacy Sandbox as a standard, per Advertiser Perceptions, with another 35% aware of it and actively exploring how to implement it.
  • Many brands could find this prolonged waiting period annoying, given ambiguity around the cookie-less alternatives on the market.

Analyst insight: “While this might be a short-term relief to marketers and advertisers, obviously it’s just a stay of execution,” said principal analyst Dave Frankland. “But in the medium term, it will just add to the market confusion as even more alternative solutions appear and/or we’ll see more experimentation.”

Why it matters: Although much of the digital economy—including mobile apps and CTV—do not rely on third-party cookies, Chrome represents two in three browsers used on a global basis. Given that, Google’s pushing back the deprecation of third-party cookies is huge.

But regardless of the deadline, investing in the cookieless future sooner rather than later is a wise bet for all stakeholders.