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Entering a cookie-less world

At first glance, Google’s decision to ditch third-party cookies in its market-leading Chrome browser has a good feeling about it. Cookies are intrusive and off-putting, and their over-use is steadily driving digital advertising towards a crisis point of ad-blockers, ad-blindness and regulation. Google has recently released their future outlook for what a post cookie world will look like.

But while third-party cookies deserve to be consigned to the past, Google’s proposed post-cookie system for interest-based advertising in Chrome – known as FLOC, for Federated Learning of Cohorts – is largely not a solution for the advertising industry or the end-user needs.

FLOC, as Google has described it so far, will certainly be highly privacy-compliant, in that no-one – except Google – will any longer be able to identify consumers in Chrome. Meanwhile, for marketers, FLOC makes targeting far blunter, and attribution almost impossible. So whilst the industry continues to drive transparency and scalability; FLOC is opaque and restrictive.

On the other hand, Google is on the right lines in one aspect. The decision to move data in the user’s browser. Google is therefore recognising that on-device data is the way forward in a privacy-focused world.

Privacy doesn’t have to kill targeting

While the removal of cookies (and their associated tracking) has been a long time coming. There are benefits that better targeting provides.

An ever-increasing number of options has release audiences from the days of fixed tv content scheduling, it has also created a minefield of almost limitless choice. This has resulted in a huge number of tools that build dynamic segments based on real-world user actions – activities, commuting patterns, points of interest and media consumption habits. With this tangible data, their content can be better targeted and tailored to an audience that already uses their apps.

Better engagement leads to better ad opportunities

Advertising naturally follows on from high-quality engagement. When viewers interact with content on a regular basis, that in turn means more opportunities for effective advertising – increasing the value of adverts and the potential for ad revenue.

In all of this, privacy is, of course, paramount. Whereas third-party cookies are held on numerous servers and shared widely in a highly un-private fashion. The future of advertising is private by design: every piece of personal identifiable data is kept safe and secure and never needs to leave the user’s device.

There’s more to online than Chrome alone

But privacy is not the only issue that is addressed by an on-device approach. Looking forward, the digital advertising industry needs technology that is broader, not narrower, than cookies.

Google’s cookie-switch-off is often depicted as some sort of death knell for advertising online, but the reality is that our online lives are not limited to browsers, and certainly not just to Chrome. Our habits range across online platforms, including smart speakers, connected TVs and set-top-boxes.

Our technology is designed to work in any app architecture across all those channels, so it can provide contextual insights right across the spectrum of modern digital content. With such insights on board, broadcasters and advertisers can serve the right content, in the right format, at the right time, to meet their own goals and please their users.

That has always been the aim of advertising, but it has gone wrong, and it needs to be put right. Google may not have found a crowd-pleaser with its FLOC technology, but it is right about privacy. And it is right about on-device.

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