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By Hailey L. Petway, Digital Advertising Analyst





Google, the undisputed leader in the 120-billion-dollar-online advertising industry, could change the way digital ads are tracked and delivered online. They are developing an anonymous identifier for advertising, also called an AdID, which would replace third-party cookies.


Is this the end of the cookie?

What are cookies?


Cookies are tiny codes dropped into a user’s web browser that allow advertisers to track web history and serve ads tailored to a user’s activity. Third-party cookies, used by advertisers to track and serve ads on various third-party domains, could be replaced by Google’s AdID. First-party cookies would remain unaffected. The purpose of Google’s new AdID is to allow users to have some control over who tracks their online behavior. This comes as a measured approach in comparison to some of Google’s competitors who have already blocked third-party cookies. Apple has blocked them in Safari since 2003. Microsoft made “do not track” the default in Internet Explorer 10, and Mozilla is also making “do not track” the default setting in their new versions of Firefox.


What does this mean?


As an advertiser, Google has an interest in tracking users so they can show ads to a targeted audience. Google’s approach won’t mean the end of advertising formats like retargeting, but it could make it more expensive. With this new format, advertisers might have to go through Google to get the data they were previously collecting themselves through the use of third-party cookies, according to USA Today.


Rob Shilkin, Google Spokesman

"Technological enhancements can improve users' security

while ensuring the Web remains economically viable. We and others have a number

of concepts in this area, but they're all at very early stages"


But the news isn't all bad. The change could benefit advertisers with better downstream metrics. The identifier could help create more detailed portraits of consumers by tracking users with a single ID, instead of using a different code for each cookie.


Who's in control?

Advertisers will have access to Google’s AdIDs as long as they meet the terms of the program. That said, users could have the ability to select who they want to be able to track their data. As that same USA Today article explains, the AdID could also be automatically reset after a year, and users could be able to create a second one for browsing with additional privacy.


This is similar to what Web users can already do if they choose to use browsers that eliminate or block tracking via third-party cookies, like Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari. Google’s adoption of the AdID wouldn't mean the end of tracking, but it would have three potential impacts on your advertising:

  • A decrease in the reach of your ads, as people decide to opt out
  • An increase in your retargeting costs
  • An improvement in the quality of your reporting on ad performance

What other ways might our advertising change if the third-party cookie crumbles?

About the Author


Hailey L. Petway is a Digital Advertising Analyst at Cobalt. Her dream car is a Aston Martin DB Mark III but she’d settle for an Austin-Healey. Hailey and other Cobalt Digital Analysts optimize and customize SEM campaigns for their dealers. When she’s not working on automotive SEM campaigns, Hailey can be found working in her garden. She lives in Fremont, WA. Feel free to reach out to Hailey directly at


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Comment by Alexander Lau on January 30, 2014 at 1:26pm

Yeah well, they have been talking about doing this for years. Finally, they are getting around to developing something that promotes anonymity. 

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