FLoC to replace third-party Cookies

Google says tests of “Federated Learning of Cohorts” show advertisers can expect to see at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.
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FLoC - Interest-based advertising

It’s no secret that Google will phase out third-party cookies in its Chrome browser in 2022. This has made a lot of advertisers very nervous and widely been regarded as a sure way too loose marketing insights and data.

However, yesterday in a blog post Google revealed preliminary tests for an alternative to browser cookies called FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts). They are so promising, that advertisers can expect to see at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.

This has led Google to commit to FLoC, as one of the tools in its Privacy Sandbox for replacing third-party cookies in the Chrome browser.

Currently, Google says FLoC will be rolled out for wider testing in March with tests based on cohorts with advertisers in Google Ads in Q2 (2021).

What is FLoC?

Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) is an API developed by Google which will enable ad targeting based on users’ general interests.

It is a way to reach prospects with relevant content and ads by clustering large groups of people with similar interests (cohorts).

This method has the purpose to hide the individual in the crowd and use on-device processing to keep individual users’ web history private in the browser.

For now, it is not entirely clear how specific and detailed the cohorts will be; this is expected to be clarified in March.

FLoC is a privacy-first alternative to third-party cookies and when it comes to generating interest-based audiences, FLoC may provide an effective replacement signal for third-party cookies, Google states.  

Results will in the end depend on the strength of the clustering algorithm and the type of audience.

With yesterday’s announcement and the results of the testing phase, it is clear that FLoC will be a major player in digital marketing when third-party cookies are no longer supported in 2022.  

How does FLoC work?

The main idea behind FLoC is machine learning. The browser will feed an ML algorithm data about the user’s visits to specific websites and then the algorithm will determine which cohort the user belongs to.

Essentially, FLoC puts people into groups based on similar browsing history and behavior. Only the “cohort ID” will be used to target users, not individual IDs as seen with third-party cookies. Website history and other input will be kept in the user’s browser.

For advertisers, there will still be possibilities to target potential buyers of their products, difference here being that FLoC will not be tracking every user across the internet, but cluster them into cohorts with thousands of other users with similar interests.

This should reassure advertisers who may have thought the days of targeted advertising were over with the death of the cookie. Cookies will still be alive as first-party data, but these new APIs proposed by Google in their Privacy Sandbox may show to provide advertisers with useful tools to target users in the future.

FLoC will not be an across-the-board replacement for third-party cookies. The API specifically targets users based on general interests. Measurement, retargeting and other functions handled by cookies, is not possible with FLoC. For that Google has other proposals ready, like FLEDGE.

The future of privacy on the web

With FLoC and other new APIs, Google is embracing user privacy on the web. Google expects the Privacy Sandbox to be the best solution for improving user privacy while still allowing advertisers to reach the right people with targeted advertising.

As we move deeper into 2021, another one of Google’s APIs: Consent Mode will be gaining ground.

Google Consent Mode will allow website owners to adjust the behavior of Google Tags dependent of the users’ privacy choices.

With Consent Mode integrated with your website’s Consent Management Platform, you can get access to aggregated, anonymous data for traffic and ad conversion measurement even when users’ decline tracking of personal data.

Read more about Google Consent Mode here:

Link: What is Google Consent Mode?