Not changing the subject, but a cookie-free future is more than just what Google does

Data-driven thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh insights into the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Amy Fox, VP of Product at Happiness.

New year, same industry fight: the death of third-party cookies.

Just when things started to feel a little less overwhelming, Google announced another change: it’s replace FLoC with Topics. Brands and agencies – here we go again.

But whatever you call it, FLoC or Topics, let’s be clear about what we’re all trying to accomplish: find new, privacy-focused ways to understand and accurately target audiences at scale and, in ultimately helping advertisers stay relevant to consumers. .

lofty goal. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before pinning your hopes on Google topics.

An old conversation repackaged as new

As AdExchanger has already rightly done observed“one of the main concerns of ad techs is that the categories returned by the Topics API for targeting will be too broad.”

For example, if you visit the Wall Street Journal, “news” will become one of your topics for that week – but the API will not discern what type of news you are consuming, for example if you are a gossip addict of Hollywood. or political updates on Russia versus the United States in the UN Security Council debate. Very different things.

Because the Topics API relies on top-level domains, such as, rather than the full navigational URL (, anything Topics will reveal, these are the generalized categories of pages that consumers are viewing.

And remember, although Topics seems innocuous and gives friendly names to a consumer’s browsing categories, Google still controls all aspects of the process, including the interest groups themselves and how they are affected.

From what we know so far, Topics just looks like a watered down version of FLoC.

The tedious search for a unique solution

The industry has long been back and forth about what the ideal privacy-focused solution might look like. But based on to research we led in January, US media planners appear to be ahead of the game, compared to their peers in the UK and Australia. They are the only ones to say that privacy-focused solutions are a priority this year.

Nearly half of the planners we surveyed consider a mix of contextual targeting, UID 2.0, and FLoC (well, Topics now) as the most viable alternatives. With FLoC gone, media planners will no doubt be wondering what impact the change will have on their ability to find the right solutions this year and whether Topics will deliver what they’re looking for.

One thing we all need to keep in mind is that if Topics eliminates the issue of fingerprinting through cohorts to improve privacy, it creates a much less reliable targeting solution because the data source will now be temporary and based on the domain. Topics will likely offer the exact opposite of what media planners, editors, and advertisers are looking for. The new aggregated navigation labels will not be able to provide enough relevant information to help advertisers achieve their goals.

If media planners and brands are still looking for a silver bullet to solve privacy issues while keeping advertising relevant once and for all, I’m sorry to say that Topics alone isn’t.

Change focus, stay on topic

We need to stop trying to find a replacement for the granular targeting solutions we’re used to. The granularity and nature of targeting will necessarily change in the years to come. But what we can’t lose sight of is the need for solutions that allow us to target addressable audiences at scale.

It’s time to shift our collective focus and reach out to the audiences that advertisers are already missing.
With the cookieless era fast approaching – and it’s already happening on Safari and Firefox – most media planners and marketers are already missing out on 45% of the addressable scale they once had. access. Even with the introduction of new targeting solutions such as Topics, we estimate that over a third of the market will likely remain unaddressable by current methods such as Topics and Unified Identifiers.

This may not seem urgent right now, but planners should think about this newly inaccessible audience and what they can do to bring these currently inaccessible audiences back to the plan. The best way to do this is testing cookieless solutions before Chrome’s obsolescence deadline.

This year is not on Google. Or FLOCK. Or Subjects. It’s about focusing on what’s important. 2022 is the last opportunity for agencies and brands to tackle privacy changes and find workable solutions.

Avoid the temptation to keep changing the subject.

Follow Blis (@blisglobal) and Ad Exchange (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

Jessica C. Bell