What does the delay in ending third-party cookies mean for advertisers


Data-driven thinking“is written by members of the media community and contains new ideas about the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Rachel Parkin, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Sales at CafeMedia.

Some of us may not have been surprised by last week’s announcement that Google is delaying the abandonment of third-party cookies until 2023, even though the timing of the announcement was surprising in itself. Others may breathe a huge sigh of relief and start planning an extended summer vacation, if they don’t already have one in their books.

Whichever end of the spectrum you find yourself on, the future remains the same, albeit a little more distant on the horizon.

For advertisers, who are at various stages of understanding this change in the industry, how does this change the way they can prepare?

Wait until you see the approach

Google’s delay could make a “wait and see” approach even more appealing. A number of advertisers (and publishers) had originally planned to take a hands-off approach due to uncertainty about the future. With limited development resources and the feeling that you have no influence on the outcome, it’s easy to see why an advertiser would choose not to participate in what looks like an alpha phase.

Many advertisers will likely depend on technology partners and “bought” rather than “built” solutions. So the simple answer may be to delay worrying until new innovations are actually available in the market for testing.

And, the delayed depreciation has proven that the industry is no closer to clarity on solutions. Where the industry lands in 2023-24 could include any number of the more than 30 proposals in the Privacy Sandbox. Or it could be something that hasn’t even been introduced.

Take advantage of the extra time

On the flip side, the extra time gives advertisers more time to prepare for the same possible change, so we’re ready to say ‘good riddance’ to third-party cookies long before the end date actually arrives. How can an advertiser make the most of this time?

To be involved. There are a number of industry forums, from W3C to PRAM, where discussions about these changes take place. Advertisers have been under-represented to date. We may change this under-representation in the future to ensure that open web advertising remains attractive to advertisers.

While it might not make sense for every advertiser to buy into directly, talking to publishers and technology partners who are heavily involved is a great way to ensure they represent the needs of marketers. Marketers will also want to make sure their partners are working on tight deadlines to schedule any engineering and development work needed for their platforms to participate in the Privacy Sandbox beta trials.

Test publisher data and contextual targeting – and take a close look at ‘cookie-free’ providers

Start testing cookie-less targeting. Not all solutions for the future are in the hands of Google and other browsers. Start advertising without cookies with solutions that can work alongside anything coming out of Privacy Sandbox.

For example, advertisers can work with publishers to test context and explain how specific segments, customized for each campaign, can improve performance. Emerging technologies will allow buying on the context in the open exchange. These two solutions are independent of the Google timeline.

Refrain from purchasing third-party data. Hanging on to legacy technology won’t make the process of strategy change any easier. With planning for 2022 ad budgets likely underway, now is a great time to focus more on tactics like publisher audiences and first-party context.

Support solutions that lead to positive change for privacy. There are a number of identity solutions and technologies that could be seen as privacy workarounds rather than a step towards a more private web. Google’s announcement specifically called the fingerprints secret, and Apple’s latest privacy updates include the ability to hide IP addresses.

Advertisers and publishers will need to consider the methodology behind each approach and choose to stay away from any technology that attempts to bypass user privacy. Instead, focus on a class of solutions that create a better experience for users.

Adopt a publisher mindset

Today’s advertisers will also be tomorrow’s publishers. Advertisers who can create a user journey, including content, that allows customers to reveal more information about themselves through the actions they take, will generate their own first-party data universe.

Thinking like a publisher will give advertisers more information and insight that they can use to create campaigns. Providing more value to users will not only cement this critical relationship with users, it will inspire users to sign up for newsletters or connect directly. Creating email and login experiences is one of the main things editors are working on as well – and the extended timeline means there are a lot more opportunities for everyone to increase the number of posts. ‘known users.

Further engage publishers on ways to synchronize these respective proprietary datasets – with consumer consent, of course! – via data bunkers or clean rooms also does not depend on the timeline of Privacy Sandbox.

Be patient about the measurement

The only area that will remain a bit unclear until other solutions are revealed is how the metering and basic functions such as limiting the number of exposures, reaching and increasing campaign performance will work on the private web.

Advertisers might be better off building on existing solutions. Or, knowing that marketing-mix modeling is likely to make a comeback, advertisers could test both in parallel to increase their convenience with aggregate approaches. Focus on the many ID-free targeting solutions for the short term and stick to the measure.

Browsers and ad tech companies may be building the next generation of “cars,” but advertisers are the engines and the keys to the future of open web media investments.

The more time you spend studying the manual and the more experience you have behind the wheel, the more likely digital advertising is to pass the test. Let’s keep running to the new – and longer – finish line.


About Deborah Wilson

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