The Cookieless World Has Arrived! (at least for 1% of Chrome browsers)


Anthony Botibol
Head of Marketing 

* Blog updated on 26 April 2024 to address new Privacy Sandbox timelines: On 23 April 2024 Google announced a third delay to the full removal of third-party cookies following criticism from the UK's Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The timeline has therefore been pushed to Q1 2025 and the most up-to-date timeline can be checked here.

January 4th, 2024, today is the day when Google sunsets third-party cookies for 1% of its Chrome browsers, which marks the beginning of its plans to fully deprecate the use of third-party cookies by the end of 2024.* This move signifies a pivotal moment in digital advertising, requiring a strategic response from marketers to adapt to, and thrive, in the evolving ecosystem. 

For nearly three decades, third-party cookies have served as the backbone of targeted online advertising. They enable cross-site tracking to power incredible reach, allowing marketers to follow huge volumes of users across the web (often without explicit consent) and deliver tailored adverts and retargeting campaigns. Using tools like Google's Display and Video 360 (DV360) or Google Ads will require a rethink if they will be usable at all for some forms of targeting. The abundant use of third-party cookies has raised privacy concerns, leading major browsers to adopt more stringent privacy measures. Google’s Privacy Sandbox is born out of just that! 

While 1% doesn’t seem a lot, with Chrome commanding 60% of the web browser market, this percentage represents about 30 million people who will now experience a fundamentally different way of being targeted online. For digital marketers, this means that they can now start testing the new privacy-first technologies that have been built as part of Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative. 


Google's Privacy Sandbox Initiative as a Replacement 

In response to the growing privacy concerns, Google has launched some technologies under the umbrella of the Privacy Sandbox. This is a range of APIs that handle display advertising, programmatic retargeting, measurement, and more, but importantly do not use third-party cookie tracking. Instead, these technologies rely on first-party data and signals to send to the Privacy Sandbox technologies and then use privacy techniques like differential privacy, k-anonymity, and on-device processing, to serve ads to the relevant customers. While these APIs have been available for ‘functional testing’ in 2023 (ultimately, ‘do they work?’ and ‘can we get a live sandbox working?’), from today with 1% of actual browsers now available to target, some more meaningful tests can begin.  

The Importance of Testing the Privacy Sandbox APIs 

With the window of opportunity between now and the full deprecation of third-party cookies, marketers are urged to proactively test the Privacy Sandbox APIs. Essentially, can run A/B test comparisons against their traditional use of third-party audiences to see if there is a meaningful difference in the results. This testing phase allows marketers to identify potential challenges, refine strategies, and ensure a seamless transition. Not only this, with marketers largely being left to figure this out themselves, by running tests now they can better evaluate the business impacts and make some predictions for how this seismic shift in digital advertising will impact their bottom lines.

For example, if 5% of your revenue is currently attributed to your programmatic retargeting programs, then being able to retarget anonymous website visitors across Chrome using the new Protected Audience API will ensure that you don’t see a decline when third-party cookies are finally turned off. While connectivity to the Protected Audience API is relatively simple from a technical standpoint, the ability to capture first-party data signals for millions of anonymous visitors on your website, assign interest groups to each individual, adhere to privacy guidelines for the capture and activation of that data, and then automate the launch of real-time retargeting programs requires complex and unique capabilities that are not so straightforward.

Embracing this proactive approach is essential for maintaining advertising effectiveness and staying ahead of the curve. 


Source: Privacy Sandbox Timeline >>

How can marketers test the new Privacy Sandbox APIs? 

As the digital advertising landscape undergoes this transformative shift, it is crucial for marketers to stay informed and prepared. Relay42 has been working with the Privacy Sandbox steering groups since its inception and, as a trusted technology partner with Google's Privacy Sandbox, is at the forefront of this transformation. Marketers looking to navigate the post-third-party cookie era can join Relay42's Cookieless World Program, which includes a Privacy Sandbox Proof of Concept, to seamlessly integrate Privacy Sandbox technologies into their digital marketing toolbox.

Beyond Google Privacy Sandbox: Build a Future-proof Cookieless Strategy 

While Google’s Privacy Sandbox is one solution for the ‘Cookieless World’, it is not the only solution. During a Cookieless World Program, you can test the Privacy Sandbox APIs at scale while also getting advice and recommended solutions that revolve around the unification and activation of first-party data for paid and owned channels, cooperating with Data Clean Rooms, managing privacy, enhancing owned channel effectiveness, leveraging identity graphs, and more. 

For marketers ready to embrace the future of digital advertising, request to be part of Relay42's Cookieless World Program and unlock the potential of Google's Privacy Sandbox. Learn new first-party data strategies, improve the quality and compliance of your customer data, and get assurances that you can manage personalization and privacy together.

Register interest today to stay ahead in the evolving landscape and ensure your brand's continued success in the post-third-party cookie era. 

Register your interest