How Google Ads and Display & Video 360 are testing remarketing without third-party cookies

The Privacy Sandbox initiative aims to create web technologies that both preserve people’s privacy online and give companies and developers the tools to build thriving digital businesses, which keeps the web open and accessible to everyone. The Privacy Sandbox is an ongoing collaborative effort to build alternatives to third-party cookies, by incorporating ideas from across the industry into new proposals that are tested, publicly discussed, and iterated upon.

One of the Privacy Sandbox proposals being tested in Chrome is called the Protected Audience API (formerly known as FLEDGE). Protected Audience proposes new privacy-preserving ways to power remarketing and custom audience solutions so advertisers can customize targeting, messaging, and creatives to address the users that matter.

With the Protected Audience API, a user’s browser securely stores the advertiser-defined interest groups (used in place of today’s remarketing lists following third-party cookie deprecation) that it’s associated with and hosts on-device auctions to show ads. Similar to how remarketing works today, the Protected Audience API will help marketers do things like showcase different product categories, appeal to visitors who didn’t convert, and re-engage visitors who abandoned shopping carts. Unlike today, however, user information won’t be collected and shared with other companies by third-party cookies and ad servers.

How Google Ads and Display & Video 360 could serve ads with the Protected Audience API

Say an advertiser, BestBikeShop, runs remarketing campaigns with Google Ads and Display & Video 360, which is integrated with the Protected Audience API. A user visits a page on dedicated to mountain bikes. BestBikeShop can then signal to Google Ads and Display & Video 360 to request that the user’s browser join their “Mountain Bikes” interest group. Users’ browsers will only be included in interest groups for a limited amount of time – API guidelines currently specify up to 30 days.

Then, when the same user visits a different website that also uses the Protected Audience API, or whose supply-side platform (SSP) uses Protected Audience, BestBikeShop can bid to show a mountain biking-related ad to that user if there’s an available ad slot. Advertisers will only be eligible to enter this auction if some minimum number of users would’ve been eligible to view this ad; Chrome has publicly stated that it’s currently considering setting this threshold at 50 users in the last 7 days. This auction happens in the browser.

Then, if BestBikeShop wins the auction, their ad will be shown.

All regulatory restrictions and consent controls that exist today will continue to be honored in the Protected Audience API.

Note: As of May 2024, Active View viewability measurement is currently not supported for Studio creatives delivered by the Protected Audience API.

How Google Ads and Display & Video 360 are testing the Protected Audience API

In mid-2022, Google Ads and Display & Video 360 integrated with the Protected Audience API and began to test the core functionality of the API. This earliest stage of testing sought to determine whether, for example, Google Ads and Display & Video 360 could successfully integrate with the Protected Audience API to add users’ browsers to advertisers’ interest groups. In these early stages, no ads were rendered as part of testing.

In a later stage of testing, Google Ads and Display & Video 360 began rendering ads on a very small percentage of traffic to verify that all aspects of the ad serving flow, as well as reporting, were working as intended. In the coming months, Google Ads and Display & Video 360 aim to expand testing with third-party exchanges.

Today, our testing continues to focus on ensuring our remarketing solutions can meet key advertiser needs. We don’t expect any impact on advertisers’ campaign performance during testing and there’s no action required from advertisers.

Throughout the testing process, like other stakeholders and testers, Google’s ads product teams continue to provide feedback to Chrome on areas of improvement and additional features with the ultimate goal of delivering performance for publishers and advertisers.

If we’re able to offer an advertiser-facing Alpha and you’re eligible to participate, your Google Account team will reach out to you with details.

Opting out of the Protected Audience API

If website publishers or advertisers prefer to opt-out of testing, they can do so via Chrome permission policy at any time. The use of these APIs are subject to Google’s EU User Consent policy requirements. Users can also view and manage the list of interest groups that they’ve been added to, or turn off Privacy Sandbox APIs entirely.

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