Google’s SameSite Update and the Third-Party Cookie-Free Future

While not quite eliminating all third-party data sharing or tracking, Google’s announcement earlier this year that it would phase out third-party cookies on Chrome spurred momentary chaos in the digital marketing airwaves.

The end of the third-party cookie forces marketers to take earning consumer consent for data collection more seriously, and it will open up new methods of data collection, some directly devised by Google and others by the many companies in its ecosystem. These new methods of data collection will aim to clarify the impact of ads and allow for pertinent advertising (or targeting) with consumers’ more clearly stated consent.

To obtain an insider’s perspective on marketing tech’s reaction to Google’s SameSite update and the industry’s path forward, I got in touch with Brian Silver, president of email marketing firm LiveIntent.

How will Google’s SameSite update affect marketers as third-party cookies are phased out over the next two years? How has it already affected them?

Marketers will have to think out of the box for a solution on how to move forward, as there will not be a 1:1 replacement for the third-party cookie. Over the last month, marketers have already learned that they cannot rely solely on deterministic solutions in this new environment, and are now shifting to pursue solutions that holistically solve their identity questions.

Were marketers and publishers prepared for this announcement? Are they scrambling to adjust to it? 

Since the announcement, we’ve started seeing marketers prepare for this new era by learning how best to leverage their first-party data assets. Although the news certainly came as a curveball to the industry, publishers and brands are learning how to accommodate. We’re still in the early days, and it’s hard for the industry to say goodbye to the third-party cookie. While it’s an imperfect solution, it’s one to which they have become accustomed.

What are some long-term solutions to the end of third-party cookies that LiveIntent and other companies are proposing? 

Already many solutions have been proposed, such as IAB’s Project Rearc, but the industry is still in the adjustment phase and is not completely prepared to say goodbye and shift to first-party identity solutions that won’t rely on third-party cookies.

Brands and publishers are in desperate need of a bridge from their first-party data to the ecosystem. Brands and publishers have acquired troves of first-party data that can fuel the future of their businesses. But they need a simple bridge to connect it to the constellation of different IDs that each entity online uses.

How will the end of third-party cookies on Chrome and other browsers affect consumers? Does it mark meaningful privacy progress?

Consumers have been welcoming to the change, despite not fully understanding what a SameSite cookie is, as they are hoping that the loss of cookies will lead to an increase in privacy. The update will mark a new level of privacy protection on the web — although websites will still be able to access some of consumers’ information after the update, they will eventually hit a wall.

Anything else?

Businesses should view the update as a wake-up call to pursue identification solutions, in order to take advantage of audiences they’ve built as well as help identify new audiences. What better time to do that than when people are consistently in front of their screens and eager for communication during social distancing? Even in these early days, we’ve recently seen a 5% increase in email opens on our platform. And savvy brands and publishers are realizing this email asset can be used to fuel the future of their identity efforts.

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Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He joined Street Fight as a contributing writer in 2015, has compiled the daily newsletter since 2016, and has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Shoot him an email at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.