The End Of Audience Tracking As We Know It

by | Jan 7, 2024

What Google’s phasing out of third-party cookies means for graduate admissions

After years of delays and looming concerns, Google is ready to make good on its threat to block third-party cookies by the end of 2024. The tiered elimination of this tracking will force advertisers to find new – and arguably less accurate – ways to target audiences.

Third-party cookies track users’ behaviors across the internet, which can, in turn, be used to deliver ads highly relevant to them. That sort of access, though, has been highly criticized for years due to privacy concerns. Google certainly wouldn’t be the only company to separate itself from the practice of invasive tracking. In a move that rocked the industry, Apple updates in recent years began requiring apps to ask permission before tracking users, moving to an opt-in model. 

Apple’s move came with plenty of industry pushback, which wasn’t far off from the reactions Google faced when it initially planned to remove cookies support that same year. Google’s harshest criticism centered around what would take the place of cookies. 

Topics, Google’s recommended replacement, allows advertisers to track based on user interests over a limited timeframe. But with its very broad categories, lack of oversight, and limited testing, the reception has been frigid. 

While no one can predict if Google will offer yet another delay as the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority reviews the plan, advertisers must prepare to fill the holes that this move creates in their ability to reach their target audiences. Over the next few months, advertisers need to take a few steps.

  1. GET TO WORK NOW. Don’t wait until next year to adjust your marketing strategy. 
  2. Lean into first-party data. Data directly from your users is the gold standard. Offer forms and incentivize providing information so you can continue to deliver relevant, personalized advertising.
  3. Begin testing Topics. Test and learn the tool now. While the timeline is short, devote regular time throughout the next few months to prepare yourself and transition your campaigns to avoid an abrupt cutoff.
  4. Explore new/alternative marketing avenues, specifically IP targeting and OTT. It’s time to audit your platforms – and what platforms your users prefer.



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