GroupM, Google Launch Post-cookie Readiness Program as Deprecation Nears


The industry-first initiative brings together clients of WPP’s media-buying arm to accelerate their understanding of Privacy Sandbox APIs.

Recently, Google confirmed its plans to begin the phaseout of third-party cookies in Chrome in Q1 2024, despite some industry rumblings that the tech giant could again delay deprecation. GroupM’s introduction of a post-cookie readiness program in partnership with Google suggests that the end is near the long-standing tracking and targeting technology that has served as a key pillar of digital marketing.

“Since Google publicly declared their intention to deprecate third-party cookies, we’ve been collaborating closely with the Chrome team, our clients, and other partners to ensure our clients won’t miss a beat when the transition happens,” said Christian Juhl, GroupM’s global CEO, in a statement. “The program we’re announcing today is an exciting step forward in that collaboration that will allow our clients to test existing preparations and enable us to develop new approaches where necessary.”

Key to the program is the design of a unified framework for testing that will help advertisers and ad-tech partners understand plans to integrate privacy technologies, including Google’s own Privacy Sandbox APIs. The framework will be informed by guidance from the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority. This regulatory body previously has secured commitments from Google that its post-cookie plans will promote competition, boost online publishers, and safeguard user privacy.

GroupM will leverage its scale as the world’s leading media-buying agency to conduct a meta-analysis of individual brand tests, anonymizing and aggregating the data to inform its learnings and, eventually, compile a meta-study. Similarly, participating advertisers will be first-to-market testers of solutions from GroupM’s ad-tech partners.

The program is expected to inform client knowledge around the targeting, optimization and measurement of digital investments across display and video in a post-cookie world. Brands participating in the initiative can use existing media plans and budgets without any mandatory additional investment, according to GroupM, and share feedback on Privacy Sandbox features.

Google first announced plans to deprecate third-party cookies in Chrome in January 2020 before pushing back the deadline several times as the ad industry continued to work out alternative solutions. The company in April shared results from tests around interest-based solutions like the Topics API, which delivered a “relatively small” impact on performance.

Google said it would wind down cookies for 1% of Chrome users in Q1 2024 in May. The move will allow developers to test the readiness and effectiveness of their cookieless products in real-world environments, as even 1% of Chrome’s 3 billion worldwide users still represent a sizable user pool.