Marketing Briefing: Marketers appreciate the ‘legroom’ for tests with Google’s latest cookie delay

This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

Google’s decision to delay the third-party cookie crumble once again last week was no surprise to marketers. The proverbial can had already been kicked down the road a few times. Doing so again, seven of whomst told Digiday, allows more time to potentially minimize the impact on advertisers. 

While the eventual disruption of third-party cookies ending in Chrome is a foregone conclusion, the pain felt by advertisers may not be as apparent as that felt post-iOS 14. Continuing to move the goalposts may be repetitive but marketers are happy with the move as they’d prefer Google get it right and find ways to be as thoughtful as possible with the change rather than hit a deadline.

“This conversation started in 2020, and at that time it inspired a lot of other really crucial conversations about how we approach media planning, privacy, performance, and how we collaborate,” said Valerie Schlosser, group director, paid search at VML. “Fast forward to now and it’s still very present in our everyday conversations with each other and clients, but the trajectory is the same. It’s just a steady climb. Things are always changing in this industry anyway, so you always have to be ready to pivot — with or without the proper heads up.”

Despite the (expected but newly certain) lengthened timeline, marketers will continue to test alternatives, bolster first-party data strategies and expect retail media to continue its rapid growth. Giving more time to prepare for the change only allows more time to test post third-party cookie strategies, making the news welcome to marketers and agency execs alike.

“The positive to this [is that the] continued delay allows for additional proactive testing and enhancements of alternative measurement opportunities that can continue to be explored in the meantime,” said Amanda Goetz, media director at Campbell Ewald, pointing to Google’s enhanced conversion tracking and Meta’s conversions API as examples.

Harry Inglis, head of activation at Media by Mother, echoed that sentiment: “A test-and-learn approach to cookie-less identity solutions will continue. Advertisers can benefit from leveraging first-party data strategies, conversion APIs, and alternative user identity solutions that will extend beyond the deprecation. Experiment with different approaches, measure their effectiveness, and adapt based on learnings.”

While the sense of urgency could be lost on the cookie crumble given the precedent Google has set with moving the deadline multiple times, marketers and agency execs believe the need to prepare and the looming finality will keep the conversation going this year.

“We haven’t pumped the brakes on anything,” said VML’s Schlosser. “While we recognize that timelines have lengthened and that legroom has been provided, we’re grateful for the chance to stretch out and do as much testing and measurement as possible while we have the time. We also know there are still some solutions that aren’t quite ready for testing, so the additional time will allow for that as well.” 

That said, it’s early days. Marketers will continue to prepare and test alternative solutions this year well aware that Google will ultimately get rid of the third-party cookie; it’s unclear what the impact on those companies will be just yet.

“Even though advertisers got another delay, they shouldn’t kick the can down the road,” said Media by Mother’s Inglis. “The end of cookies is a certainty, and the industry needs to begin adapting, all gas, no brakes.”

3 Questions with Jeff Jenkins, evp of global marketing and CMO at Carter’s

Americans are reportedly having fewer babies. How do you square that as a children’s apparel company?

It’s really hitting them hard because they’re also thinking about: How can I afford to buy a home? Mortgage rates are really high. Anytime you enter parenthood, it’s an expensive proposition because you’re adding a mouth to feed and someone to clothe. Value is always front-and-center for Carter’s. But as we’ve thought about [this] over the last year and listened to customers and done research and listened to what their hopes and fears for their kids are, that’s one of the things that we said is: How do we redefine value for that next generation of customer? Which has led to our Everyday Value Program that we’ve launched in [February], to really make sure that we drive home that we’re there for you.

Talk to me about the Everyday Value program. Why do the low pricing strategy now? Why does it matter? 

Since inflation took off a year ago, mortgage rates went up … what we continue to hear from parents is, “Look, we love Carter’s as a brand. It’s been our favorite brand for generations.” But one of the things we kept hearing is, “As a parent, parenting is unpredictable and we would just love to be able to make sure that when I’m in a crisis … how do we have more everyday value?” They love our sales. They love our trends. But when you’re in that need, it was: How do we just have some stock up styles at everyday value?

What are the business goals behind the new program?

We obviously look at our brand health metrics. Are we considered a brand that parents can relate to? There’s some brand health metrics that we want to drive around relatability, [accessibility], all those things. The goal will also be to drive customers back into our stores more often. There’s a frequency play for our existing customers. It’s also an acquisition strategy to make sure that those new parents also know that we have great places that they can trust. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

Yet again, the timeline for the end of Google’s third-party cookies is unclear as the tech company has announced another delay. Thus far this year, Google has turned off third-party cookies to one percent of Chrome browsers. For the most part, marketers have been apathetic about the cookie apocalypse all while taking steps to prepare for a cookieless future — whenever that is, according to a recent study from Decile customer data and analytics platform. See findings from the survey below:

  • About half of respondents have noticed immediate impacts on their business due to cookie depreciation, with two-thirds experiencing a decline in marketing metrics visibility.
  • Ad costs have increased for roughly half of the brands due to cookie reduction, with four out of five believing they need to focus more on first-party data to counteract cookie depreciation effects.
  • Less than 20% haven’t taken any steps to prepare for a cookieless future, leaving 80% actively preparing. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“Organic social is massively misunderstood. It was never built for scale and it was never built for assuming social was free.”

— Tom Sneddon, co-founder and managing director of social agency Supernova, when asked about the value of organic social for Digiday’s latest case study for and against organic social.

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