2019.05.10 Last Week in Digital Media

Here’s the last week in digital media, this week has a bit more of an editorial feel, given the type of news, so thank you in advance for indulging this change in format.

During the week Google held their annual developer conference, Google I/O. As is always the case, the IPG Lab has a great write up on what brands need to know about Google I/O. Google also published a list of the 100 things announced at IO. AR & Google Assistant was the main innovation focus. There was news that podcasts will be playable within Google search results, making the format more accessible (and who knows, maybe opening the door to audio ads in search). The biggest news from I/O that impacts AdTech was a privacy update to Google Chrome and how Google would treat 3rd party cookies.

Google is making updates to Chrome framed in the context of being all about Privacy and Control. Some of the moves are consumer-facing, such as a proposed cross-platform browser extension that would enable users to see how they have been targeted. Chrome will also block browser fingerprinting. As fingerprinting is non-transparent and users can’t opt-out, so this is a move that definitely helps protect users but FYI, will negatively impact companies that have cross-device attribution models as well as potential broader impacts on all attribution modeling.

However, Google’s position on how Chrome will treat 3rd party cookies is big news. Chrome will require developers to declare where and how their cookies will be shared. Chrome’s move is built on the use and adoption of an industry standard, so it’s not that Google has gone rogue. If you’re interested, here’s the detailed technical explanation but the short version is that without the declaration, cookies won’t be able to be shared across sites. The use and sharing of cookies across sites is something programmatic advertising actively uses and we’ll have to wait and see how publishers and the public respond – will publishers declare cookies as shareable? and will consumers accept cookies they know are shared?

AdWeek has an article (paywall) that details how Chrome’s 3rd party cookie position could play out for the industry, with the prospect of increased contextual targeting and an increased need to target on and match to publisher data. Publishers without any 1st party data and who rely on programmatic revenue will be at a disadvantage given the change. So expect to see a flurry of activity as sites try and capture some data about users. Although this in itself might be a challenge for publishers who may be ill-equipped to manage compliance and collection of user data across GDPR, CCPA, and other privacy laws.

Cookies are definitely on a path to extinction and have been dying for a while now between the shift to mobile and Apple’s ITP position. Chrome’s change has less impact that Apple’s ITP but there are questions as to how pure Google’s motives are, as there’s no escaping the fact that Google has the least to lose over the death of cookies. As Mashable points out, Google doesn’t need cookies – it can track you across all of your web-sessions via Chrome if you are logged in to the browser and via Android. For context, as of April-May 2019, Chrome has about 63% and Android about 74% market share.

In the midst of Google I/O, one of the co-founders of Facebook, Chris Hughes, published a lengthy op-ed in the NY TImes proposing it was time to break up Facebook. I won’t attempt to summarize and strongly recommend you read the entire article. The article struck a nerve at Facebook, who responded (unsurprisingly) that breaking up Facebook was not the answer. Although to be fair, Facebook did state that they “need to be held to account”. Between the lines, expect active lobbying from Facebook for industry regulation (either self or external).

As an aside, late Friday Facebook announced that it has suspended and commenced legal action against South Korean company “Rankwave” from the platform. Facebook alleges concerns over data collection and compliance with Facebook’s terms.

Thanks for indulging all the editorial-styled content, here’s the other (brief) news:

Have a great week.