Google’s privacy quest was never purely about axing cookies. From the initial blog announcing plans to stop support, its key goal has always been accelerating the shift towards a healthier, ad-supported digital ecosystem that works for everyone — and above all, balances continued delivery of data-driven campaigns with robust user protection. Consequently, the technology giant is already succeeding in its main mission, despite working to an updated timeline.  

Across the industry, there is increasing recognition that the most sustainable way forward is framing marketing efforts around privacy-secure sources such as first-party data gathered directly from consumers; especially as studies show that failing to move with cookie deprecation could see companies lose 25% of their data. What’s required now is a way of doing so efficiently. 

Marketers need tools that allow them to action consented data and follow user preferences, without losing speed, accuracy and scale, or putting user privacy at risk. This is where another development from Google has the potential to help them forge ahead: Consent Mode. 

Beyond simply offsetting diminishing third-party data, there are a host of compelling reasons why marketers should consider the consent route. Aside from aligning with strict safeguards from leading players — including Apple’s App Tracking Transparency framework — and ever 

multiplying regulations, they must also meet growing user demand for control. According to Deloitte, 81% of UK consumers have taken action due to privacy worries, while six in ten worldwide would like to restrict access for some of their data, if they knew how. 

Currently, however, progress is being blocked by lingering concerns; and one of the biggest barriers is what happens when users don’t opt in. While most marketers understand the importance of embracing privacy-preserving practices and the value of collecting more first-party data, there is ongoing apprehension about how conversions can be measured and optimised if individuals refuse consent; alongside how choices can be recorded and applied across channels. 

Google’s Consent Mode is designed with these problems in mind. By providing an alternative method to trace ad impact, while ensuring continuous alignment with user wishes, the initiative makes it possible for marketers to achieve the perfect blend of compliance and effectiveness. So, what does this look like in practice? 

Unsurprisingly, the best definition for this feature comes from Google: it allows marketers to adjust how their tags behave based on the consent status of users. At a broader level, its principal role is coordinating data use after access is requested, rather than directly acting as a consent management platform (CMP).

Taking a deeper dive into practical mechanics, existing capabilities centre on two main forms of consent: personalised advertising and analytics. Introducing the corresponding variables to technology configurations — ‘ad_storage’ and ‘analytics_storage’ — establishes an instant line of communication where tags can be dynamically instructed on what to do next across Google’s suite of ad serving, marketing, and analytical tools, in accordance with user preferences.

If consent is granted, tags run as usual. The interesting part of this approach lies with the steps triggered in cases of denied consent. When the green light isn’t given by a consumer, tags have the capacity to run without collecting or sharing cookie information; meaning marketers can keep measuring campaigns effectively but in a compliant manner. Even though aggregated and relatively basic, the insights provided around ad impact are a huge improvement when you consider the alternative, which is to lose ad evaluation capabilities  completely.

Moreover, there are further functionalities that offer opportunities to bolster precision and scale. For example, marketers with Google Tag Manager (GTM), or ‘gtag’, in operation can enter a few extra lines to the code to activate the ‘URL PassThrough’, where click identifiers can be sent into the page URL to enable cookie-free association with conversions. Additionally, there are also plans in the product’s roadmap for intelligent modelling to use consented data as the basis for creating valuable conversion insights about the habits of non-consenting users. 

Looking ahead

While still in the beta stage, Google’s Consent Mode is already poised to change the course of online marketing — and this solution is only likely to grow in sophistication as testing rolls out. By presenting a way for marketers to streamline compliance with user data decisions and obtain vital measurement information, it makes the vision of a thriving and privacy friendly marketing landscape not only truly viable, but also close to becoming reality.

Marketers are accustomed to the fact that how they create, deliver and measure campaigns must evolve to fit the new age of data sensitivity. At the same time, the analysis of user interaction with ads is a necessity to calculate ROI, fuel smarter budget allocation, and to provide the engaging experiences digital audiences are accustomed to. Google’s latest innovation looks set to equip marketers with the tools needed to walk the precarious tightrope between these two seemingly conflicting priorities. However, by transitioning to Google’s Consent Mode, marketers can fuel continued profitability, efficacy and ethical data management, with better results on all sides.