How Advertisers Should Respond to Supply Chain Uncertainty

How Advertisers Should Respond to Supply Chain Uncertainty

Advertising

A global supply chain crisis has created uncertainty for manufacturers and retailers alike. How are these problems changing the way business advertise for merchandise that may or may not be available when consumers shop?

The problem many advertisers – especially retailers – face right now is uncertainty of product availability. This is a different problem than scarcity. When a product is scarce, but retailers can predict how many units they will have on hand during the holiday season, they can set ad budgets with confidence. But when a business has no idea how many products it will stock, figuring out how to stoke demand with advertising becomes very tricky.

For example, as reported in Advertising Age, Jay Foreman, CEO of toy company Basic Fun, usually sends new products to influencers for promotion through product unboxing videos. But this year, he’s being more cautious because he cannot predict with certainty whether retailers will be able to carry his products.

“I don’t want to get the influencers going and the merchandise is not in store yet,” he said. “The consumer views that [influencer] unboxing and they’re like, ‘Cool, let’s buy it now,’ and if it’s not there, they’re not going to look at that unboxing video again.”

According to Ad Age, some advertisers are scaling back their ad spend. But many others are taking a more nuanced approached that we recommend:

  • Shift offline advertising to digital. Tactics such as paid search give advertisers more flexibility to calibrate their spend as supply-and-demand levels fluctuate. National Tree Company, which sells artificial trees and holiday décor, will focus its advertising on online search with some social media advertising as part of the mix. This approach makes sense especially as more product research and purchases occur online:

Research online

 

Purchase online

 

Because Amazon and Google dominate product research and purchase, look toAmazon Advertising and Google’s many ad units to capture holiday spend. By the way, Amazon Advertising offers ad units for businesses even if they don’t sell products on Amazon. Those ad units include Sponsored Display and Video Ads.

  • Increase advertising now. Many businesses are ramping up their advertising to encourage shoppers to buy products as soon as possible before retailers run out of products. We noted a “buy now while you can” surge in holiday promotions weeks ago. Those promotions are coming from big, well known retailers such as Target and Walmart. Be aware that when big retailers launch holiday promotions, they create general consumer awareness of the holiday shopping season. As a result, retailers should expect an uptick in searches for holiday sales and promotions. Now might be a good time to capitalize on that increased search activity to activate your own campaigns.
  • Keep brand advertising spending levels strong. As Ad Age noted, auto makers are promoting their 2022 models even though a global chip crisis has created a short-term shortage of available inventory at dealerships. Per Ad Age, “Auto brands continue to push out broader marketing campaigns touting new vehicle launches, including Toyota, which this week rolled out a new campaign for the 2022 Tundra pickup truck that it described as the largest U.S. ad campaign for a new vehicle launch in Toyota’s history.Ad spending cutbacks are more likely for locally-focused ads aimed at getting people to dealers for sales events.”

Whatever you do, don’t cut advertising because of uncertainty. Procter & Gamble’s approach during the Covid-19 pandemic offers a great lesson as to why. To say that the early days of the pandemic created uncertainty is a massive understatement. Businesses everywhere faced economic uncertainty and a global supply chain crisis (yes, the supply chain crisis was going on back then – it just was not getting the attention it is now). And who can forget the great toilet paper panic of 2020, when a spike in consumer demand resulted in retail shelves being stripped of this essential product?  Procter & Gamble was affected by this uncertainty – the company manufacturers toilet paper brands as well as many other household products that faced shortages. But Procter & Gamble kept advertising, and as a result, the company’s earnings in 2020 exceeded analysts’ projections.

As Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller said, “We view this as a time to spend forward in terms of our advertising levels, not to spend back. First, there’s never been more media consumed than there is currently, as we all try to entertain ourselves and our families and survive. And two there’s a heightened need to spend on hygiene and health.”

Procter & Gamble was, and is, looking at the long game: before the pandemic, people were spending more time online, and the pandemic accelerated that behavioral shift. The company understands that although demand and supply for products will always fluctuate, the long-term shift in behavior is here to stay. So, Procter & Gamble is taking its ad spend to where shoppers are: online.

How about you?

Contact True Interactive

How can your brand benefit from digital advertising? Contact us. We can help. Read some of our case studies here.

Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

True Interactive Blog Posts for Additional Insight

Consumer Shopping Trends for the 2021 Holiday Season

Why Big Retailers Are Ramping up Holiday Shopping Promotions – and What Advertisers Should Do

Why Google Is Doubling Down on E-Commerce

How Retailers Can Prepare for the 2021 Holiday Season

Five Lessons Learned from the 2021 Ad Spending Surge

Why Procter & Gamble Is Succeeding (Hint: Advertising!)

Why Businesses Need to Step up Their Digital Advertising in 2021

Don’t Go Dark During the Coronavirus Crisis

Why Google’s Ad Revenues Are Rising

Why Google’s Ad Revenues Are Rising

Google

A year ago, Google was feeling the pain of an economic downturn caused by the pandemic. My what a difference a year makes. On October 26, Google’s parent Alphabet reported that Google had beat earnings expectations across the board for the third quarter. Why is Google growing so well?

The News

Here are the financial highlights from Alphabet’s earnings announcement:

  • Google’s advertising revenue rose 43 percent to $53.13 billion, up from $37.1 billion the same time last year and slightly higher than the prior quarter. YouTube ads rose to $7.21 billion, up from $5.04 billion a year ago.
  • Retail was the largest contributor to year-over-year ad growth. Media and finance spending was also big.

Google, like its Big Tech rivals Amazon and Facebook, is benefitting from the surge in e-commerce that happened during the pandemic. With more consumers spending online, more businesses advertised online. The increase more than offset the slowdown Google suffered in 2020 when its travel and leisure clients scaled back advertising amid widespread travel restrictions. As we look closer at Google’s growth, we see two take-aways:

Privacy Is Google’s Ace in the Hole

Apple has enacted privacy controls that give users the choice of opting out of being tracked by apps on Apple iOS. As a result:

  • Google rival Facebook has experienced a slowdown in revenue in its most recent quarter as Facebook users opt out of having their behavior tracked, which hurts Facebook’s ability to serve up targeted ads for its customers.

Brian Wieser, GroupM’s global president of business intelligence, told The Wall Street Journal, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Whatever data they have [at Google] is better than what most others have.”

And Google’s data is going to look even better once Google successfully phases out third-party cookies on Chrome, which is the most popular browser in the world. Subject to regulatory oversight, Google will phase out cookies in 2023. This means that advertisers will no longer be able to rely on third-party cookies to track user behavior across the web in order to serve up personalized ads. Google will work with advertisers to create alternatives to third-party cookies through its Privacy Sandbox project.

Meanwhile, Google’s own powerful ad platforms, such as YouTube and Google Search, will be exempted from Google’s phasing out of cookies. That’s because those platforms use first-party data, or data collected from user behavior on those sites. They don’t rely on third-party cookies. When the dust settles, Google will emerge even stronger.

Google Is Making a Play for e-Commerce

We reported on our blog that Google is making some changes that will strengthen Google’s position as a challenger to Amazon’s e-commerce business. For instance, Google will make online searching and shopping more visually appealing by emulating the product display features you see on Amazon. For certain items such as apparel, Google will return search results with a page that resembles a visual store, not a list of links and text descriptions. Google will also soon introduce a new way to search visually, with the ability to ask questions about what you see. These changes will build on some moves Google has enacted already to become more influential in e-commerce. As The Wall Street Journal reported:

Much of the company’s growth has come from e-commerce advertisers eager to reach customers whose product searches begin online, as noted earlier. The company joined with Shopify Inc. this year to simplify search listings and ad purchases for 1.7 million merchants. The effort, which aimed to enliven its e-commerce segment, has helped turn retail ads into Google’s largest growth contributor.

Most product searches begin on Amazon, a scenario that is not likely to change soon. But Google still commands a large share of product-related searches. The explosive growth of e-ecommerce during the pandemic has suited the company well – and will continue to do so.

It’s clear that Google’s position among the Big Three online platforms (along with Amazon and Facebook) is as strong as ever. And Google is taking steps to write its own future through stronger consumer privacy measures.

As for what’s next? Look for Google to make more investments in artificial intelligence to fuel the development of more ad products. This commitment reflects a broader push into AI for Alphabet. As Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said in a call with investors, “In 2016, I laid out our vision to become an AI-first company. Five years later, this quarter’s results show how our investments in AI are building more helpful products for people and for our partners in local communities.”

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Why Google Is Doubling Down on E-Commerce

Why Google Is Doubling Down on E-Commerce

Advertising Google YouTube

How often do you go shopping on Google? If your answer is “Never,” you’re not alone. Google is feeling the heat from Amazon’s rise as an e-commerce giant. Most product searches begin on Amazon, not Google. Amazon is easily the Number One online retailer, and that’s saying something at a time when e-commerce growth overall has accelerated by five years.  And throughout the past few years, Amazon has been building on all that search and purchase activity to create a gold mine of customer data that it has used to develop a thriving advertising practice. Although Google remains the largest online advertising company, Amazon is coming on strong. All this is why Google announced a major change September 29 to compete more effectively with Amazon.

What Google Announced

Google announced that it is:

  • Making online searching and shopping more visually appealing by emulating the product display features you see on Amazon. For certain items such as apparel, Google will return search results with a product results that page that resembles a visual store, not a list of links and text descriptions.
  • Soon introducing a new way to search visually, with the ability to ask questions about what you see. According to a Google blog post, “With this new capability, you can tap on the Lens icon when you’re looking at a picture of a shirt, and ask Google to find you the same pattern — but on another article of clothing, like socks. This helps when you’re looking for something that might be difficult to describe accurately with words alone. You could type ‘white floral Victorian socks,’ but you might not find the exact pattern you’re looking for. By combining images and text into a single query, we’re making it easier to search visually and express your questions in more natural ways.”
  • Including in search a feature, “Things to know,” that will make it easier to explore and understand new topics. For example, if a person searches for “acrylic painting,” Google understands how people typically explore this topic, and shows the aspects people are likely to look at first though “Things to know.” Google says it can identify more than 350 topics related to acrylic painting in this example.
  • Introducing a new experience that identifies related topics in a video, with links to easily dig deeper and learn more. Per Google, “. . . we can even show related topics that aren’t explicitly mentioned in the video, based on our advanced understanding of information in the video.” Interestingly, Bill Ready, Google’s president of commerce, told the Wall Street Journal that Google “wants to stitch e-commerce across Google’s entire suite of offerings from search to maps to YouTube. Mr. Ready envisions people watching a YouTube video of someone unboxing new apparel and viewers being able to click nearby to purchase the items, or being served an ad on Google Search if they later look for the clothes.”

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Capitalize on Google’s advertising tools that are designed to be more visually appealing. For instance, Google recently rolled out Discovery ads, which are image-rich ads designed for a more “laid back” search experience (more about that here). Google is clearly doubling down on the visual web, and advertisers should expect more visually appealing ad products as it attempts to become a stronger e-commerce player.
  • Make use of more tools that make it easier to connect online searching and shopping. Google isn’t the only company figuring out search and commerce. Instagram is another, as we discussed in a blog post recently. And there are many more apps doing the same thing.
  • Do a gut-check with your organic search team. How well are they aligning content with visual search, for example? How will Google’s “Things to know” feature affect the depth and breadth of content that you provide on your website, Google My Business listing, and elsewhere?
  • Keep your eyes open and your budgets flexible. The online advertising space is getting more competitive and interesting for retailers. We have been blogging about the rise of Amazon Adverting for some time – as well as the growth of advertising services from retailers such as Macy’s, Walmart, and Walgreens. They’re all using their first-party customer data to build online advertising platforms. Depending on your target audiences, they may provide very competitive alternative to Google – an example being Macy’s for fashion-conscious shoppers or Walmart for advertisers whose audience aligns with Walmart’s multi-channel customer. (And we can help you succeed on all these platforms.)

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Why Facebook’s Ad Business Will Take a Hit — and What Advertisers Should Do

Why Facebook’s Ad Business Will Take a Hit — and What Advertisers Should Do

Apple Facebook Uncategorized

On September 22, Facebook made an unusual announcement well ahead of its third-quarter earnings, which won’t be shared until late October. In a blog post, Facebook indicated that its third-quarter results will take a hit because of the impact of Apple’s increased privacy controls. Let’s take a look at the news and what it means.

What Facebook Announced

  • Facebook confirmed that for the third quarter, the company’s advertising business will take a financial hit because of the impact of Apple’s Application Tracking Transparency (ATT), which went into effect in 2021 with a recent iOS update on users’ personal devices.
  • Under ATT, users are asked to give apps permission to track their behavior on their Apple devices. Facebook needs Apple users to give apps permission to track their behavior; Facebook has built a thriving advertising business based on its ability serve up targeted ads to iOS users based on their behavior off Facebook. But as many as 96 percent of users in the United States are opting out of having their behavior tracked.
  • In a blog post, Graham Mudd, vice president of Product Marketing, Facebook, wrote, “As we noted during our earnings call in July, we expected increased headwinds from platform changes, notably the recent iOS updates, to have a greater impact in the third quarter compared to the second quarter. We know many of you are experiencing this greater impact as we are.”
  • Mudd also said that Facebook underreported iOS web conversions by approximately 15 percent. “We believe that real world conversions, like sales and app installs, are higher than what is being reported for many advertisers,” he wrote.

What Facebook’s Announcement Means

  • Facebook’s war with Apple will intensify. Apple could find ways to impose even more privacy controls.
  • More advertisers will bolt to the Android operating system and take their ad business to Google.
  • Facebook will be forced to become more transparent to ad partners about its ad performance, especially after admitting that the company underreported iOS web conversions.
  • Facebook will probably devise more ways to mine first-party data from its own platform and Instagram to sell ad space.

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). For example, collect more first-party data by using cookies to understand who visits your site; or run a promotion that collects email addresses. Collect purchase data if applicable to your site.
  • Consider relying on advertising platforms such as Amazon and apps such as Snapchat and TikTok that have strengthened their own ad products through their own proprietary first-party data.
  • Watch for the emergence of new tools and approaches. Apple’s ATT will inspire the emergence of workaround tools as well as approaches for developing personalized content. This is happening already as Google adopts privacy controls.
  • Review Facebook’s advice for how to analyze your performance and adapt your ad strategies on Facebook (or ask your agency partner to do so for you). Mudd provided some detailed steps to take in his post.
  • Consider negotiating more favorable rates for your ad account with Facebook if your performance is dropping but you still want to work with Facebook.
  • Don’t panic and change your ad strategy completely. This situation is still evolving.

At True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting to help our clients navigate these changes. Bottom line: be ready to adapt.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

The Impact of Apple’s New iOS Privacy Controls

The Impact of Apple’s New iOS Privacy Controls

Apple

Earlier in 2021, Apple tightened privacy controls through an update to its iOS operating system. The news created alarm among advertisers and ad platforms (notably, Facebook) who said they believe Apple is hurting their ability to serve up effective and relevant advertising. So, what’s happened since then? Let’s take a closer look at the aftermath of Apple’s controversial decision.

Apple Announces Application Tracking Transparency

The privacy control that Apple launched is known as Application Tracking Transparency (ATT). ATT requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. Apps can prompt users for permission, and in Settings, users will be able to see which apps have requested permission to track so they can make changes to their choice at any time.

When Apple previewed ATT in 2020, Facebook led an angry protest from advertisers who were upset that the new opt-in program would result in plunging ad revenues and less relevant advertising resulting from a loss of personalization. Facebook argued that ATT would be unfair to the many small businesses that rely on Facebook.

The Impact of Application Tracking Transparency

So, what has happened since ATT went live? So far, here are the major developments:

  • Users reject tracking. As many as 96 percent of users in the United States are opting out of having their behavior tracked. Those high opt-out rates out do not kill advertising at all. In fact, businesses that have amassed proprietary first-party user data should continue to provide relevant ads. But businesses that rely on tracking behavior across the web will need to accept the reality that their ads are less targeted.
  • Advertisers flee Apple. Many advertisers are not waiting to discern the potential impact of ATT. According to The Wall Street Journal, prices for mobile ads directed at iOS users have fallen, while ad prices have risen for advertisers seeking to target Android users. That’s because a number of businesses are shifting their ad budgets to the Google Android operating system and away from Apple’s iOS. This shift does not affect Apple because Apple collects no ad revenue from third-party iOS apps. We do not yet know how Google may benefit from the shift (and Google does rely on ad revenue heavily).
  • No impact on Facebook – so far. Facebook announced its second-quarter 2021 earnings on July 28. The company’s ad revenues showed no sign of slowing down and beat Wall Street expectations: $29.08 billion, vs. $27.89 billion as expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv. Facebook said advertising revenue growth in the second quarter of 2021 was driven by a 47 percent year-over-year increase in the average price per ad and a 6 percent increase in the number of ads delivered. But Facebook has not backed off from its position that ATT is going to hurt the company and advertisers. The company lowered is earnings outlook for the third quarter partly because the company believes ATT’s impact has yet to be felt. In its earnings announcement, Facebook said, “We continue to expect increased ad targeting headwinds in 2021 from regulatory and platform changes, notably the recent iOS updates, which we expect to have a greater impact in the third quarter compared to the second quarter.”
  • Twitter shrugs off ATT. Twitter, like Facebook, says it has not been affected by ATT (so far). In its latest quarterly earnings, Twitter showed robust revenue growth. Twitter also said that the impact of ATT was lower than expected. And Twitter is more optimistic about the potential impact of ATT going forward. In its earnings announcement, Twitter said, “We continue to expect total revenue to grow faster than expenses in 2021 — assuming the global pandemic continues to improve and that we continue to see modest impact from the rollout of changes associated with iOS 14.5.”

What Advertisers Should Do

  • Examine your ad performance. Examine the effectiveness of your advertising on iOS. Have you lost your ability to bid on ads because of users opting out of being tracked? Is your ad performance actually slipping? If you work with an agency to manage your ads, ask them for a complete report. And then examine your performance throughout 2021. If you see a noticeable slide, then adapting your spend to Android may make sense, but if your performance is only marginally affected, remember that your competitors are probably experiencing the same outcome.
  • Consider tapping into your own first-party data more effectively to create ads (and True Interactive can help you do so). For example, collect more first-party data by using cookies to understand who visits your site; or run a promotion that collects email addresses. Collect purchase data if applicable to your site.
  • Consider relying on advertising platforms such as Amazon and apps such as Snapchat that have strengthened their own ad products through their own proprietary first-party data.
  • If you rely heavily on Facebook as an ad partner, heed Facebook’s detailed advice for adapting to ATT (or ask your agency partner to do so).

At True Interactive, we’re doing the heavy lifting to help our clients navigate these changes. Bottom line: be ready to adapt. But don’t panic.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Zhiyue Xu on Unsplash

For More Insight

Apple Announces New Privacy Features,” Mark Smith.

The Facebook Spat with Apple: Advertiser Q&A,” Taylor Hart.

Google Responds to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency,” Taylor Hart.

 

Google’s Optimized Targeting Feature: Advertiser Q&A

Google’s Optimized Targeting Feature: Advertiser Q&A

Google

Managers of Google Ads accounts were surprised recently when Google began to gradually roll out a new feature, optimized targeting, apparently with little fanfare. It’s important that Google Ads users understand what’s going on with optimized targeting. The new feature may provide benefits but also higher costs for performance marketers. Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Optimized Targeting?

According to Google, optimized targeting helps businesses using Google Ads to reach new and relevant audiences who are likely to convert. Optimized targeting looks beyond manually selected audience segments in a campaign in order to find audience segments that an advertiser might have missed. The overall goal of optimized targeting is to improve the campaign’s performance.

When Should a Business Use Optimized Targeting?

Per Google, optimized targeting works best when a business wants to expand an audience segment most likely to convert, acquire new customers (beyond existing segments), identify new audiences who will perform well for an existing campaign, and increase conversions without increasing bids or the cost per customer. A recent Search Engine Land article notes that optimized targeting is beneficial if an advertiser is not sure who their audience is.

What’s the Difference Between Optimized Targeting and Audience Expansion?

Many advertisers already use the Google Ads audience expansion feature to expand an audience segment. Audience expansion does so based on an advertiser’s manually selected audience segments. Optimized targeting uses real-time conversion data to find more users who are more likely to convert.

Google cites the hypothetical example of a business that wants to attract people to the upcoming launch of a new running shoe. The business targets people using two audience types: a custom segment based on top performing keywords from their search campaigns (e.g., “running shoe sale”), and the “athletic footwear” in-market segment. Audience expansion and optimized targeting may handle the company’s campaign as follows:

  • Audience expansion: in addition to the business’s manually selected audience segments, audience expansion includes similar segments such as the “trainers sale” custom segment and the “sporting goods” in-market segment.
  • Optimized targeting: optimized targeting expands to users who are likely to convert by creating a profile of what a converter looks like based on real-time conversion data. For example, that data could include Google searches for specific running shoe brands or clicks to a popular sportswear website. While advertisers’ manually selected audience segments provide a starting point, optimized targeting looks for conversions outside of their selected segments.

According to Google, Discovery and Video campaigns that use audience expansion will transition to optimized targeting.

How Do I Get Started Using Optimized Targeting?

If you manage a Google Ads account, Google already got the ball rolling for you by enabling optimized targeting for all campaigns automatically. And you might encounter an initial fluctuation in your Google Ads costs as a result. Per Search Engine Land, “This could potentially be an expensive option if your budget is lower as your initial conversion quality could fluctuate as the data is collected and optimized targeting figures things out.”

What if you don’t want Google to automatically enable optimized targeting? To disable it, you need to change your ad group settings. If an ad agency manages your account for you, ask them how they are managing this feature and the impact on your budget. At True Interactive, we’re keeping a close eye on this new feature and protecting our clients’ budgets.

Our advice to advertisers who use Google Ads:

  • Watch your account closely. As Search Engine Land reported, managers of Google Ads accounts began to notice the roll-out of optimized targeting through a new “Signal” indicator that appeared in their Google Ads account.
  • Watch your budget closely. As noted, the automatic roll-out of optimized targeting could create an increase in costs.
  • Work closely with your ad agency partner to understand what’s happening and why. If you work with Google directly, reach out to your Google rep and ask for clarity about any future product changes in store.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here, and learn about our services here.

Why Google Delayed Its Plan to Scrap Cookies

Why Google Delayed Its Plan to Scrap Cookies

Google

Not so fast, Google. The company has announced that its campaign to kill cookies on the Chrome browser is slowing down. This is an increasingly complicated story with a simple conclusion: no matter what Google does or does not do, ad personalization is alive and well.

What Google Announced about Blocking Third-Party Cookies

In a blog post, Google said that its plan to block web tracking on Chrome – originally planned to happen in 2022 – will be delayed until later in 2023. The company also indicated that its timeline is subject to its engagement with the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). In other words, Google will need the cooperation of legislators who are growing very concerned about Google’s growing power. This is an important development. Previously, Google was rolling along unchecked with its anti-cookie measures despite an outcry from advertisers and ad tech firms — who are concerned that Google is amassing too much power and restricting their ability to deliver personalized ads by tracking users across the web.

A Brief Timeline of Google’s War against Third-Party Cookies

Google’s announcement is best understood in context of a series of moves that the company has made since January 2020. Let’s break it down for you:

January 14, 2020: The Bombshell

Google said it will phase out support for third-party cookies on Chrome, which is the most popular browser in the world. Advertisers rely on third-party cookies to track user behavior across the web in order to serve up personalized ads. Google said it wanted to make the web more private. Google said it would work with advertisers to create alternatives to third-party cookies through its Privacy Sandbox project.

The news created a wave of protest from advertisers and ad tech firms. They accused Google of stacking the deck against them by denying them the ability to use third-party cookies to personalized ads. Meanwhile, Google’s own powerful ad platforms, such as YouTube and Google Search, would be exempted from Google’s phasing out of cookies. That’s because those platforms use first-party data, or data collected from user behavior on those sites. They don’t rely on third-party cookies. Advertisers complained that Google was creating an unfair competitive advantage.

January 8, 2021: A Regulator Steps In

The United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced it was investigating Google’s Privacy Sandbox because the CMA was getting concerned that Google was potentially violating anti-trust laws. This was an important development leading up to Google’s June 24 announcement.

January 25, 2021: Will FLoC Float?

Google announced it was developed an open-source program that would ease the pain of businesses eventually losing access to third-party cookies. This open-source program is known as FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts). FLoC will make it possible for businesses to group people based on their common browsing behavior instead of using third-party cookies.

March 3, 2021: Google Doubles Down

Google doubled down on its campaign against cookies. Google said that once third-party cookies are phased out of Chrome browsers, Google will not build alternative identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web, nor will Google use them in its products. Examples of those alternative identifiers include Unified ID and LiveRamp IdentityLink. Instead, Google pushed advertisers to adopt FLoCs developed out Google’s own Privacy Sandbox initiative (as noted above).

Notably, Google  also said, “We will continue to support first-party relationships on our ad platforms for partners, in which they have direct connections with their own customers. And we’ll deepen our support for solutions that build on these direct relationships between consumers and the brands and publishers they engage with.”

March 11, 2021: Google Keeps Pushing First-Party Data

Google announced some product developments intended to make it easier for publishers to use their first-party data programmatically for ad buys. The announcement was seen as another sign of Google’s intention to bring about the demise of third-party cookies and push businesses toward using first-party data to personalize content.

June 11, 2021: Google Feels the Heat

Feeling the heat from the CMA investigation, Google made some public commitments to protect free competition, such as “no data advantage for Google advertising products” and that “We will play by the same rules as everybody else because we believe in competition on the merits. Our commitments make clear that, as the Privacy Sandbox proposals are developed and implemented, that work will not give preferential treatment or advantage to Google’s advertising products or to Google’s own sites.”  Google also pledged to cooperate with the CMA.

June 24, 2021: The Cookies Are Still Baking

As a byproduct of pledging to cooperate with the CMA, Google agreed to slow down its phasing out of third-party cookies. The CMA wants Google to proceed more cautiously and thoughtfully with the CMA’s oversight, especially amid the ongoing outcry from advertisers, ad tech firms, and competitors.

The New Timeline

Google shared a revised timeline. Here’s exactly how Google describes it:

“After this public development process, and subject to our engagement with the CMA, our plan for Chrome is to phase out support for third party cookies in two stages:

  • Stage 1 (Starting late-2022):Once testing is complete and APIs are launched in Chrome, we will announce the start of stage 1. During stage 1, publishers and the advertising industry will have time to migrate their services. We expect this stage to last for nine months, and we will monitor adoption and feedback carefully before moving to stage 2.
  • Stage 2 (Starting mid-2023):Chrome will phase out support for third-party cookies over a three month period finishing in late 2023.

Soon we will provide a more detailed schedule on privacysandbox.com, where it will be updated regularly to provide greater clarity and ensure that developers and publishers can plan their testing and migration schedules.”

What Does All This Mean?

  • The demise of third-party cookies is still happening – just not as quickly as Google originally planned.
  • Google now has oversight. The CMA could pull its support or impose more restrictions if it feels Google is not playing fair. And who knows what would happen to Google’s Privacy Sandbox if that were to happen?
  • Personalization is alive and well. As we noted on our blog, even if Google succeeds ultimately, businesses have access to alternatives to third-party cookies such as Unified ID 2.0 — is a next generation identity solution built on an open-source digital framework.
  • First-party data is more important than ever. That’s because Google isn’t the only Big Tech firm clamping down on web tracking. So is Apple with its Application Tracking Transparency privacy control, which requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers.

What Businesses Should Do

  • Heed Google’s advice and monitor the detailed schedule for its next moves on privacysandbox.com
  • Work with your advertising agency to understand what’s happening and how you may be affected. That’s exactly what our clients are doing with True Interactive. That’s what we’re here for.
  • Don’t abandon ship with ads that rely on web tracking. As you can see with Google’s June 24 announcement, things may not proceed the way Google plans.
  • Do invest in ways to leverage your own (first-party) customer data to create personalized ads. We can help you do that.
  • Consider ad platforms such as Amazon Advertising and Walmart Connect, which give businesses entrée to a vast base of customers who search and shop on Amazon and Walmart. True Interactive offers services on both platforms in addition to our longstanding work on Google, Bing, and other platforms.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

For Further Reading

Apple Announces New Privacy Features,” Mark Smith.

Why the Google Ad Juggernaut is Back,” Tim Colucci.

Why Amazon and Facebook Are Catching up to Google,” Kurt Anagnostopoulos.

Google Unlocks First-Party Data for Publishers,” Mark Smith.

Google Rejects Alternatives to Cookie Tracking,” Mark Smith.

Google Responds to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency,” Taylor Hart.

The Facebook Spat with Apple,” Taylor Hart.

Google to Stop Supporting Third-Party Cookies on Chrome,” Mark Smith.