Google’s Privacy Announcement: A ‘Back to the Future Moment’ for Digital Talent

March 9, 2021

Just shy of fourteen months after Google’s declaration to the industry to make third party cookies obsolete sometime in 2022, the company announced that once cookies are finally phased out, there will be no alternate 3rd party identity graph solutions to combine data and determine individuals from it within the Google ecosystem.

While this is not an overnight change, it is a major statement for Google, and is a clear attempt to shift the industry away from relying on individual user identifiers and towards audience segmentation, supported by their FLoC proposal.

The paradox in this situation is that Google is supporting and encouraging user identities for known customers, both in how they will allow user level analysis within their own ecosystem (through Ads Data Hub, their data clean room) and encouraging the use of consented 1st Party data and platforms such as Customer Data Platforms (CDPs).

While many technology platforms have responded positively, despite them ultimately being impacted long-term, it will be interesting to see who aligns their roadmap to Google, and attempts to create an alternative ecosystem; a DSP and ad server that allows the use of identity matching services connecting directly. We’ve seen Data Management Platforms (DMPs) starting to pivot towards CDP-like offerings, still with 3rd party insights, to better conform with platform requirements, and it’s our jobs as partners to help clients continually evaluate and ensure they’re adding value. Whether any dissenters would manage to sustain an alternate solution long-term is another question, particularly if there is concerted pressure from consumers to introduce tighter privacy legislation.

As much as we are digital marketers, we are also consumers and we wholeheartedly embrace the direction Google has introduced. We believe it will lead to an industry driven by more ethical practices and standards and represents one of the most important times in our careers as advertisers.

We are well set up for this future, having invested in building out our Data and Martech capabilities within our Consulting division to support our clients in building their own 1st Party data infrastructure, which Google will continue to allow direct integration with, and guiding clients on future facing data strategies and how to connect them to their advertising.

This change will also represent a seismic shift from an over-reliance on technical solutions to target new customers, diverting us from a path of one-to-one targeting through AI and automation, and back towards a world of traditional planning fundamentals and measurement techniques. This will lead to a new Springtime of talent development, combining data skills and digital marketing acumen with marketing and planning fundamentals – much of which was discarded by huge swaths of the industry – and ultimately this can truly deliver full-service integration for clients and better customer experiences. 

It will be disruptive to the ways that digital media is bought, planned, measured and analyzed in the future, but is the only way to restore consumer confidence and perception in digital advertising. Looking ahead, the future is for partners whose value comes from focused applications of data-driven insight and technology, with leading talent guiding the way through. And for this reason, we say:

Challenge accepted, Google.

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