Despite a faltering start involving multiple delays in phasing out the third-party cookie, the engineering team at Google Chrome hopes that ramping up experimentation with proposed alternatives will convince the industry it’s serious this time around.
Later this month, it will expand the Privacy Sandbox Experiences, moving beta versions from a trial version of Chrome to a more popular version of the web browser. Proponents of the trial hope it will bring more actionable ideas.
So far, original experiments where tech companies and publishers can try ad targeting tools alternative to third-party cookies, such as Topics API, have been done in beta versions of Google Chrome.
According to an announcement last week, the use of third-party cookies will still be available to advertisers in Google Chrome until late 2024, a source of discontent for privacy advocates and frustration for the media industry — many just want to know what tools will be available to them in the near future.
And now, as it prepares to begin testing the FLEDGE (the first locally executed decision on the Groups trial), Google hopes to move the Privacy Sandbox experiments to a more popular version of the web browser, also known as the “Chrome Stable,” which will mean trial participants receive more responses. actionable verb.
Multiple sources from ad technology companies and publishers who have participated in previous versions of Privacy Sandbox Trials He told Digiday that they hope these updates will lead to some much-needed momentum for progress.
“Starting in early August, Privacy Sandbox experiences will expand to millions of users globally, and we will gradually increase the number of beta users throughout the remainder of the year and into 2023,” said Anthony Chavez, Vice President of Privacy Sandbox, Google.
Limited data sully early efforts
Early participants in the Privacy Sandbox trials complained that the limited number of users of trial versions of Chrome, the Internet’s most popular web browser, restricts the amount of data they receive from these trials.
As a result, these ideas are limited to separate sources on the publisher’s side claiming that such small-scale comments have thus far made participation in the Privacy Sandbox trials moot. For example, the current testing environment means that the Google Topic API does not assign full targeting attributes to its web domains.
Additionally, the fact that Privacy Sandbox’s Themes API includes randomly selected themes – a feature to help ensure user privacy is preserved – has frustrated some. Publisher sources, who were not allowed to speak with the press, maintain that this limits the quality of the data signals they can make available to advertisers at the expense of how they monetize users who visit their websites using Google Chrome.
The scale of frustration among Privacy Sandbox participants was reflected in Google Chrome’s successive delays in turning off third-party cookies, a move that will make it compatible with competing browsers such as Apple Safari or Mozilla’s Firefox. Initially, this included stopping the use of ad targeting tools in Chrome this year, but now the Google-owned web browser won’t phase out third-party cookies until 2024.
Paul Bannister, an executive with first-hand knowledge of experiments and chief strategy officer at Cafe Media, told Digiday, “The original experiments only worked in Chrome Beta which has very few users, and it wasn’t even 100% working in beta Chrome, so it was The actual amount of data we were getting was very minimal.”
He later added, “That’s a huge blocker they’re removing, and we’re going to get more data that will help a lot…Before, we were like, ‘Okay, we’ve turned it on but we’re getting such a little bit of data that we’re fiddling with our thumbs.'”
Google Chrome is trying to “get” ads
There is a common narrative that engineering teams with Chrome and Google Ads don’t give them away, a precaution that has been put in place to fend off potential trip wires that would leave the field open for more anti-competitive practices. As a result, those within Chrome’s engineering team are “inexperienced” about the ad industry’s needs, and several Digiday sources have reached out to Google about its plans to drop support for third-party cookies.
In its recent comments report to the Competition Markets Authority (one of several transparency commitments it has made to the UK regulator), Google acknowledged areas it needs to improve. For example, Rowan Meyerwood, employee developer relations engineer at Chrome, acknowledged third-party feedback that his team has little experience when developing advertising products.
Although a source with direct contact with Google Chrome told Digiday that the web browser’s engineering team recently made in-person updates to address this perceived lack of understanding, particularly when it comes to recruiting publishers’ needs.
SSPs have not yet offered a FLEDGE compatible solution…this could be a major blocker
Lukasz Wlodarczyk, Vice President, Automated Ecosystem Growth and Innovation, RTB House
Time will tell if Google will be able to overcome other obstacles to the evolution of the Privacy Sandbox. This isn’t a feat since a lot of that depends on whether the ad industry can accept that its success is intertwined with that of Chrome. It may be too close to comfort for many. The tests for the FLEDGE part of the Privacy Sandbox are an example.
“One of the bottlenecks we see with this part of the protection mechanism is that supply-side platforms have not yet offered a FLEDGE-compatible solution that will provide publishers with an ad inventory that they can provide to demand-side platforms,” Lukasz said. Wlodarczyk, Vice President of Automated Ecosystem Growth and Innovation at ad technology vendor RTB House. “This could be one of the main obstacles to any major advances in testing.”
Tear it up and start over
The improved tests are a welcome shot in the arm for Google’s protracted attempt to fix online advertising. However, the problems with this transition remain the same, and only the schedule changes. Perhaps that is why this latest delay was expected by many and was slightly anti-climate.
“We just have to continue building towards a secure privacy standard and robust testing to ensure business continuity. It is imperative that we not lose sight of the primary goal, which is to reinvent the way we engage to improve consumer privacy,” said Matt Barash, Senior Vice President of the Americas at Index Exchange. The industry needs more time to overhaul the set of standards and processes that have been in place since its inception.”
Herein lies the kicker. Extensive testing or not, Google’s struggles to replace third-party cookies have made anyone think that such a complex and nuanced method would be resolved with relative ease. Not by at least one company. If anything, the delay may give other parts of the industry reason to think more deeply about the leverage it gives Google in waiting to solve third-party addressability issues rather than trying to figure out the problem themselves.
“We know, or at least have hints, that a lot of these tests via the Privacy Sandbox haven’t worked really well,” said Joseph LosPalotto, US country manager at ad technology company ShowHereos Group. “It’s not far to say why I would keep pouring a ton of capital into engineering or sales resources to support something that isn’t working. The industry isn’t buying the utopia Google was trying to sell.”