Last week, Google announced big changes to how users are tracked across the internet when using Chrome; users will soon be able to disable third-party cookies (with, according to Google, minimal disruption to first-party cookies). That makes that cookies generated by the site a user is visiting should still function correctly, but cookies created by ad networks will not.

Earlier this month, Apple made a similar announcement. However, the two companies are approaching this issue in different ways: Google’s announcement is an opt-out feature, while Apple is auto-blocking third-party cookies in Safari.

First-party vs. third-party data

We’ve always valued data privacy — we’ve advised our clients to be as transparent as possible when collecting first-party data from user submissions. When building media campaigns, we prioritize using first-party data to reach our clients’ communities for advocacy and engagement campaigns. This data also helps us build custom lookalike audiences to grow our clients’ communities during acquisition and lead generation campaigns.

First-party data is the backbone our clients’ media campaigns for two main reasons. First, these audiences perform better. Period. We consistently see a higher return on investment for any campaign with a fundraising, advocacy, or acquisition objective when we include audience segments or personalization built off our clients’ first-party data.

Second, first-party data helps our clients build a deeper bond with their communities. When a supporter knows that their data is being used appropriately and to deliver relevant content to them, their overall relationship with the organization improves.

Ad tech — or bad tech?

For years, we’ve seen issue after issue in the ad tech world, ranging from professional negligence to outright fraud. In general, these problems have been driven by a race to the bottom for platforms and publishers to offer advertisers the cheapest CPMs, resulting in dirt-cheap targeting segments based on black box probability models.

While we wish Google’s update was more than an option for users (we’re more closely aligned with Apple’s decision to remove third-party cookies completely), we believe this decision will ultimately have the following impact:

1. Better regulation of the data marketplace, driven by what is shared through the web browsers themselves, as Apple and Google are currently doing. This could potentially eliminate some third-party data segments from the marketplace and increase data costs, because it’ll be harder for the less reputable ad networks to aggregate data sources — but it should mean agencies and advertisers benefit from higher-quality data.

2. A renewed effort across the ad space by advertisers, agencies, and publishers to adopt data transparency as the new normal with an end goal being that a user’s data cannot be replicated, sold to providers, and used to buy inventory without their knowledge. As an industry, we need to stop rewarding the purchase of impressions based on data sourced from questionable sources or without a user’s consent.

3. Organizations & publishers will start to realize the value of their own first-party data (akin to how walled gardens like Apple, Facebook, and Google already value their own data) and build better relationships with customers by committing to protecting each user’s data and creating even more relevant user experiences based on their data.

Since Google’s decision leaves the user with the choice to opt-out, the short-term impact of Google’s decision may not be as obvious. If this opt-out choice receives similar adoption rates as ad blocking technologies (roughly 25% in the US per eMarketer), it could take several years for a sizable amount of Chrome users to opt out of third-party tracking.

At BSD, we aren’t going to wait around for the effects of Google’s decision to come into play. We are, and always have been, committed to providing the best results for our clients and the best experience for their communities. We’ll continue to work with our clients to build out their data pools while keeping them on the forefront of data privacy rules and processes.

Want to talk about what this means for your next campaign? Get in touch with us.