The Publisher Brief: Google's Kicking the Cookie Can... Again

In July 2022, Google once again announced that it’s kicking the can down the road when it comes to the death of the third-party cookie. The stay of execution now places the cookie’s demise at the end of 2024 – but what does it mean for publishers? 

The Headlines

  • On July 27th 2022, Google’s VP of Privacy Sandbox, Anthony Chavez, announced that the third-party cookie deprecation in the Google Chrome browser will now take place during the second half of 2024. 

  • This marks the second delay to Chrome’s cookie deprecation in as many years. The delay is ostensibly to allow more time to test Google’s Privacy Sandbox solutions, but, for many in online advertising, it’s business-as-usual in an industry with an identity crisis.  

  • For publishers, this reprieve is a firm reminder that it’s time to begin testing cookieless solutions, exploring alternative IDs, bolstering their first-party data strategy, cracking contextual – or a combination of all of these (and more).

The 2024 cookie delay: A summary

Back in June 2021, Google announced that the planned deprecation of the third-party cookie in Google Chrome would be moved to mid-2023. Some in the industry celebrated the move; some breathed a sigh of relief; others just… waited.

Since that announcement, Google’s Privacy Sandbox solutions have been in constant development, including entries into the mobile space and an expansion towards millions of real-world users via the Privacy Sandbox Relevance and Measurement origin trial in late 2022.  

But, despite the work being done, Google is still not convinced the world is ready for a cookieless future – likely because many of the solutions (and the partners who’d need to use them) aren’t quite ready yet either. 

As such, it announced on July 27th 2022 that the deprecation of the third-party cookie from Google Chrome would once again be moved to “the second half of 2024”. 

The long goodbye

If you’ve been following the long and winding road to the Google Chrome cookie deprecation, there’s probably a question at the front of your mind: Why is the industry taking so long to say sayonara to the cookie?

As the second delay to the cookieless future in as many years, the goalposts moving to 2024 may actually come as a relief to some in the industry. After all, empires have been built on the third-party cookie.

But cookies crumble. Eventually.

So what’s taking this one so long?

According to Google, the reasoning behind the most recent change is all about feedback on their Privacy Sandbox solutions.

In the announcement blog post, Google’s VP of Privacy Sandbox, Anthony Chavez, said:

“The most consistent feedback we’ve received is the need for more time to evaluate and test the new Privacy Sandbox technologies before deprecating third-party cookies in Chrome. This feedback aligns with our commitment to the CMA to ensure that the Privacy Sandbox provides effective, privacy-preserving technologies and the industry has sufficient time to adopt these new solutions. This deliberate approach to transitioning from third-party cookies ensures that the web can continue to thrive, without relying on cross-site tracking identifiers or covert techniques like fingerprinting.”

The CMA referenced in Anthony’s quote is the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, with whom Google has agreed a strategy for developing and deploying Privacy Sandbox solutions. In short, these agreements are legally-binding commitments which ensure Google doesn’t monopolize the online advertising ecosystem and that competition can still thrive. 

What does the 2024 cookie delay mean for publishers?

If you’re a publisher, another big question you’re sure to have on your mind is… What does this mean for me?

As we’ve discussed a couple of times before at The MediaGrid, we believe it won't be just one solution which solves for the cookieless world, but a combination of many. So which particular blend of solutions will be right for your unique identity strategy

The additional runway provided by the 2024 cookie delay opens the door to even more testing (or trial-and-error) for publishers to find out what works best for them. 

The first thing we’d strongly recommend is to focus on your first-party data strategy. Your data really is one of your greatest assets, and it’ll be even more valuable in 2024 and beyond. 

Why is your first-party strategy so important? Well, with so much uncertainty around once cookies go away, buyers are likely to gravitate to those publishers who already have their first-party strategy locked down. In real terms, that means laying the groundwork now for collecting, analyzing, and segmenting first-party data to create value for buyers now and in the future. It’s here that tools like Seller-Defined Audiences can play a key role. 

In addition, now is a great time to roll out first-party data collection tactics – from newsletters to giveaways to gated assets. Without cookies, having a consent-granted and authenticated list of phone numbers or email addresses matched to your first-party audiences will be the holy grail – so why not start now?

It’s true that there are lots of moving parts when it comes to cookieless, but we believe that – unlike the third-party cookie – there won’t be one solution to rule them all, but many. That’s why it’s so important to act now to optimize your setup and secure your revenue streams. 

Speaking of revenue, if header bidding plays a key role in your stack, you can already take steps to supercharge your yield today – and it won’t cost you a penny.

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