The cookie isn’t quite dead…yet. But its future is in question and advertisers need to understand the implications of cookie blocking from the likes of Apple, Google and Mozilla. TripleLift recently had a great panel discussion (43:08) that talks about programmatic in a post-cookie world; we highly recommend you watch.
The Bad & the Ugly.
When Firefox and Safari implemented their ETP and ITP, respectively, conversion attribution tanked and put a lot of questions in to the minds of advertisers whether their passive advertising tactics were truly working. If Google implements similar cookie blocking on their Chrome browser, we could assume that what would look like 70% of traffic is gone and unattributed to any campaign KPIs. Attribution vendors who rely on third party data will be hurt to show value among channels. And speaking of Google (and Facebook or Amazon for that matter), targeting of the user will still be allowed on their own platforms, of course, thus giving these walled gardens more power (read: increased revenue) than they already have. Some may be fine with an all-Google executed media plan, while others choose the flexibility and affordably of diversifying technology and inventory. When we see these entities own the complete ad supply chain from impression bid to attribution, who do you think wins more? As the cookie disappears, leveraging third party data to build audiences becomes increasingly difficult, or eliminated, to scale your addressable market. Using simple demographic or in-market attributes, for example, to build audiences will no longer exist. Retargeting’s effectiveness declines dramatically since most advertisers use the cookie ID of website visitors to redeliver advertising to the brand-aware/engaged users—hopefully with enticing offers to come back to act. With one-day attribution expiration (Safari), the reality of an advertiser to prove a user converting from a display ad are minimal. This will force marketers to push budget into other lower funnel tactics such as Paid Search or Facebook. We all agree these channels do power last-click conversions where the consumers’ intent is to “act now!” However, we know the positive impact passive tactics—contextual, Connected TV, retargeting, etc.—have on campaigns’ holistic performance. When the demand generation drops, so does the lead generation. Advertisers will need to rely on publishers to provide their first party data to link demographic/behavioral attributes to the advertiser’s ideal audience (~18:00 in the video). If available third party data declines in the open marketplace, thus affecting the ad revenues of the publishers forcing subscription models, access to content will be at a premium affecting journalism as a whole. Get ready for more subscriptions—and not, that does not necessarily mean the ads will go away. We already see it now among popular, and even local, publications.
As Joella Duncan (Director of Media Strategy, Equifax) puts so bluntly in the video above, it’s time for media companies and agencies alike to pivot and modify their business models. Yes. We need to do better as an industry and be better stewards of consumers’ data—we can all appreciate this considering what Facebook has personally put us all through. Let me be clear, the inevitable death of the cookie will not implode the programmatic advertising industry. Instead it will shed a positive light on media companies who do more to serve their clients, bringing new ideas to the table and know when to move things around in-flight, than those who simply “place media.” This technology already exists for advertisers to use, either directly or through their media partner. LiveRamp is well known for their Identity Link product that matches first-party data across the many devices used to consume web content. This “people-based advertising” technology and concept will be at the forefront of what will become an increased reliance on advertisers’ first party data. Data onboarding via LiveRamp allows media partners to pass data between device IDs allowing for a better ad experience, controlling the frequency between devices, and more importantly, allows advertisers to measure performance attribution of ads on devices that do not fall into last-click or last-view models. Enter Connected TV as an emerging technology that continues to quickly grow, both in users and ad revenue. The value TV has on a media plan is measurable because of device ID tracking and the ‘person-based’ advertising methodology noted earlier. Attributing form fills and e-commerce revenue back to TV is now easier than ever to prove the effectiveness of TV. As an industry, we need to put more emphasis on cross-device attribution as it becomes more prominent in our pivot to the post-cookie world. Moreover, it makes more business sense to comprehend the impact an ad view on one device has on the conversion on another device. While noted earlier in the “bad” section, having a deeper relationship with publishers is also very much a good thing, especially as contextual advertising makes a rebound in the digital media world. Whether partnerships with contextually-focused ad exchanges, like TripleLift, directly with publishers via Private Marketplace Deals (PMPs), or through custom-built contextual targets via Grapeshot, context is king as we move toward a post-cookie world.
The reality is the cookie was never a personalized identifier of a user, but unfortunately, regulations like GDPR vilified the cookie as this thing that held user data. And thus, here we are on the cusp of our programmatic ecosystem that will fundamentally change if Chrome blocks the third-party cookie. The ecosystem that mediate.ly lives is one that thrives on partnerships—with our clients and with the tech companies we work with. These partnerships allow our teams to stay ahead of ever-changing programmatic advertising trends ensuring our clients’ businesses make an impact in their industries.