Google Announces it Will Stop Selling Ads Based on Individual Targeting

Google logo


“If digital advertising doesn’t evolve to address the growing concerns people have about their privacy and how their personal identity is being used, we risk the future of the free and open web,” David Temkin, Director of Product Management, Ads Privacy and Trust at Google



The march towards a more privacy-centric internet continued today with Google’s announcement that it will stop selling ads based on individual targeting. This continues enormous momentum in the consumer privacy sphere with similar initiatives from Apple (Read about IDFA) as well as new consumer data privacy regulations in the U.S. starting in California with the CCPA and CPRA.


While Google has communicated for some time that it will end support for 3rd party cookies, it has also been working on its own Privacy Sandbox initiative. However, Google was relatively quiet about whether it would adopt or build out a tracking replacement to the cookie. With today’s announcement, they have made it clear they will not. 


In the blog post today from David Temkin, Director of Product Management, Ads Privacy and Trust at Google, the company explains that it will stop selling individually targeted ads in 2022 when Chrome will end support of 3rd party cookies.


Further, Google also announced that it will not participate in other industry tracking initiatives such as Unified ID 2.0 or LiveRamp ATS, and that other providers “may offer a level of user identity for ad tracking across the web that we will not” and goes further to indicate that “We don’t believe these solutions will meet rising consumer expectations for privacy, nor will they stand up to rapidly evolving regulatory restrictions, and therefore aren’t a sustainable long term investment.”




Major Implications for the Entire Market


With today’s announcement, the implications are far-reaching. Google represents over 50% of the digital advertising market globally and its impact goes well beyond paid search advertising:


1. Advertisers & Publishers: ad networks, including Google’s own, that use tracking to piece together targeting and tracking across sites, will now be presented with yet another major hole. This joins the gap that is soon to be created by Apple’s pending changes to IDFA.


2. Marketing Attribution: solutions relying on cross-device identity tracking are now under even more pressure than ever. OptiMine has been very public in our proclamation that Multi-Touch Attribution is Dead, and this is yet further evidence that there is very little future for measurement relying on the tracking of individual users. And vendors providing attribution solutions based on their own identity graphs are looking increasingly isolated as major ecosystem players opt out and take their data with them.


3. Personalized Advertising: Google has announced a new solution based on de-identified audiences or consumer cohorts named Federated Learning of Cohorts- or “FLoC”. While it is safe to say that 1:1 ad targeting within the Google ecosystem is now officially over, continued in-marketing testing of FLoC will show how much of a drop in performance can be expected in a move to the new privacy-centric model.




How Does this All End?


The advertising market is in a major stage of disruption. Brands must contend with enormous complexity and the unknowns of a privacy-centric future. But if you’ve been watching the trend over the last 24 months, the one point of clarity is that a brand can no longer rely on tracking for its own future success. It doesn’t matter whether the tracking is related to measurement, targeting and personalization, or to identify the mythical “path to purchase”. Brands need future-proof options and solutions, and they need them now.