Google Ad Frequency Feature Shows The New Reality Of Browser Tracking

Google will roll out a feature for its Display & Video 360 (DV360) DSP over the next few weeks that will allow marketers to control ad frequency even when third-party cookies aren’t available.

In a blog post published Tuesday, ads privacy product manager Rahul Srinivasan described how this new frequency-capping tool will look at traffic patterns of people using first-party cookies to model ad exposure patterns where third-party cookies aren’t in use.

The feature is a far cry from being a true solution to the frequency-capping problem online.

For one thing, it’s for frequency capping within the Googleverse, not across platforms and devices, which is the crux of the problem for marketers. It also uses modeled data, not a true frequency control that tracks the number of impressions served to an individual.

“Marketers are often sceptical of probabilistic products – identity resolution was always one such example – because they can be difficult to validate,” said Simon Harris, MightyHive EMEA head of sales.

Apple released a patch for the attribution mess on Safari earlier this year. Its solution, like Google’s, relies on the marketer accepting the platform’s machine learning without seeing any individual-level data

And Google won’t incorporate data signals like IP address into the tool, since that could tip into user targeting, Srinivasan wrote. IP addresses would be very useful for frequency capping since they can be connected to the home internet service, and thus to mobile and CTV campaigns, but users can’t opt out of that data like they can with cookies.

“This is a step in the right direction as we work across Google to raise the bar for how our products deliver better user experiences while also respecting user privacy,” Srinivasan wrote.

Some industry observers would like to see additional privacy controls from Google. Monday’s blog only dealt with Chrome privacy policies, not other important Google properties like Android, which has its own ad ID, said Zach Edwards, chief data architect of the digital supply chain tech company MetaX (and a researcher of Google tracking practices).

Still, having that machine learning built into DV360 will be useful in browser environments like Safari and Chrome, where anti-tracking policies have diminished third-party cookies.

“I think it’s an important product for Google and the market,” Harris said. “And [I] expect there will be more probabilistic tools in the pipeline as businesses look to balance advertiser demands for addressability with consumer demands for privacy.”

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