Last year, Google announced its intent to remove support for third-party cookies. Those are the cookies that allow ads to “follow you around” on the internet, like when you look at a pair of shoes and you start seeing ads for those shoes everywhere. Google is being pressured by companies like Apple, who already block third party cookies in their Safari browser, as well as by ongoing legislation being developed worldwide that is focused on privacy.
Historically, remarketing is one of the least expensive and high ROI tactics in the playbook. Many nervous marketers have been wondering what Google is going to replace it with. Is there going to be some workaround that allows advertisers to do what remarketing does without the use of third-party cookies?
The answer is not really. In a recent blog post, Google explicitly stated that once third-party cookies are phased out, they will not build alternate solutions that track individuals as they browse across the web. So, what’s next?
What the FLoC?
Instead of using individual identifiers to serve custom ads based on browsing history, Google will now place people into large groups based on browsing history. This is called the “FLoC API.” FLoC is a way to help advertisers perform behavioral targeting without tracking individuals with third party cookies. So, if you visit Zappos.com and look at a pair of brown leather shoes, you may be placed into a group of people who visited Zappos.com, or a group of people that have recently looked at leather shoes. The key distinction is that there will be enough people in each group so that they are not individually identifiable.
What This Means for Lawyers
This is probably going to be a net positive for most lawyers. At worst it’s a nothing burger. Most areas of the law are already restricted from using remarketing due to rules against using personalized advertising to target personal hardships (divorce, criminal, personal injury, etc.) and marginalized groups (i.e. immigration).
Google already offers audience targeting, so I’m not sure how different FLoC is from the mysterious black box audiences they offer now. However, any improvements in audience targeting should be beneficial to lawyers.
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