by: Linda Emma, Director of Content, CloudControlMedia, LLC

When you think Apple, you probably think Apple Watches and TVs, iPhones, iPads, iPods, or all the other i’s it counts among its products. But a small percentage of its business is actually paid advertising and Apple has recently gained some big attention for what it’s not doing in that arena: sharing user data. In the name of privacy, the company has instituted Intelligent Tracking Prevention and App Tracking Transparency and while it’s already wreaking havoc for email marketers, there’s an even scarier scenario on the digital marketing horizon. Google is expected to follow suit. The Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) is Google’s answer to privacy concerns and its anti-cookie measures could have a seismic impact on advertisers.

What Are 3rd Party Cookies All About?

If you’ve ever run a product search online, you’ve likely been cookied. Let’s say you’re in the market for a new kayak. You go on Google to do a bit of research. Maybe you even click on an ad at the top of the page. You close out your search without a purchase but the next time you log on, you see an ad for a kayak. And then another. And another. That darn boat is following you all over the internet, even from device to device.

That’s because an advertiser was able to put a snippet of code that gets saved to your hard drive to be recalled at a later time. This code—or cookie—can record info about your internet habits. What you search, where you buy, what ads you’ve seen, and even your location are all there for advertisers to note and use. It sounds pretty invasive, but advertisers will tell you it allows them to give you a customized experience; to satisfy your searching and purchasing needs. And Google tells its advertisers that all that data it collects create incredible targeting capabilities, which can turn into increased sales and profits.

Why Are Browsers Ditching Cookies?

In a word, privacy.

Consider the billions of dollars lost each year because of data breaches. Or identify thefts that can take years to sort out. More than 70 percent of Americans feel like they’re being tracked online and they don’t believe the benefits outweigh the risks. Now legislation across the country and the pond are in place to do a better job at protecting individual privacy. Browsers may be changing suit because they’re being forced to.

Apple calls privacy “a fundamental human right” and has now required users to opt into tracking of their unique Identifiers for Advertisers (IDFA). It’s a 180 degree turn from the past, where you only got to opt out, and it wasn’t always that easy to do. But let’s face it, Safari is no Chrome. Google’s browser is the most widely used in the world, holding more than 65 percent of the market share. When it makes the move to kill cookies, we’ll all notice. But concerns about privacy aren’t new. The UK and EU began placing cookie restrictions on websites nearly a decade ago and the EU enacted the General Data Protection Regulation in 2018, considered to be the toughest privacy and security law in the world. In the U.S., California jumped on board with the California Consumer Privacy Act and lots of us digital marketers have already had to conform.

FLoC: Google’s Alternative Plan for 3rd Party Cookies

When Apple hit the brakes on 3rd party Cookies on Safari, advertisers left in droves and Apple dropped its ad prices by 60 percent. Google has no intention of suffering the same fate. The Federated Learning of Cohorts is Google’s answer to tracking that protects privacy while still giving advertisers enough user data to provide targeted marketing. Using a cohort assignment algorithm, users will be assigned a cohort ID, rather than an individual ID, based on their browsing history. The plan is to create cohort groups that are significantly large enough to mask individual identity, while still offering advertisers enough unique information to make effective targeting possible. Google is assuring us it will be a win-win.

When Will the Cookies Crumble?

Breathe easily for now. What started as a plan in 2019 hasn’t yet come to fruition. In 2020, Google said it would phase out 3rd party cookies within two years, but this summer it pushed the date to 2023. So, for now, time may be on your side.

But delay doesn’t mean deny. You need to pay attention and plan for the inevitability that your ad targeting is going to change. Google is assuring worried advertisers that FLoC will be the best of all worlds. From initial testing, it says that advertisers can expect to see “at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.” Specific results will likely vary depending on whom you target and how well the algorithm clusters users.

Most importantly for advertisers of all types, across all browsers, apps, pages, and platforms, you need to be willing to adapt. But hasn’t that always been the case in digital marketing?

 

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, you need a digital marketing agency that pays attention to what’s going on and always has a plan to handle what’s coming next. At CloudControlMedia, we love a good puzzle. Let us figure out yours. Contact us today.