Understand Impacts and Options for a Cookieless World

Back in 2015, I remember the panic when we all learned that Flash design files were no longer going to be an acceptable form of display ads. At the time, I worked at an internal publisher agency where we had thousands of Flash animated banners in the market. At first, we were all in the denial phase, “this won’t happen”, and “they can’t do this to the industry”. Then we proceeded to the “oh, sh*t this is happening” phase and finally the “let’s do this” phase. During this final and rightfully innovative phase, our team quickly learned HTML5  (plus, countless other things) and, looking back, the industry is in a better place without Flash display ads.

Now six years later, we are in the “oh, sh*t phase” again, but now because cookies are going away for tracking a lot of digital advertising. For the last two years, I think many of us in the industry (and some still are) were in the denial phase. “Google can’t and won’t do this” and “I don’t need to worry yet. It’s three years away”. Well, we are now 11 months out from a cookieless deadline, and frankly, it’s exciting. We’re headed for a better advertising world, not a terrible one. 

But, let’s first talk about what is being impacted:

  • Ad Retargeting: This is the bread and butter of programmatic. For example, this is the classic example where you viewed a pair of shoes on an ecommerce website, and now you are receiving shoe ads throughout your internet journey.  
  • Behavioral Targeting: This technology is purchase data based on consumer behavior. For example, targeting the millennial mom who buys lattes.  
  • Frequency Capping: With frequency capping, we can limit the numbers of impressions an ad is shown to a consumer based on message cadence. 
  • View-Through Attribution: Providing attribution modeling based on an ad view to a conversion (i.e. the consumer sees the ad on a publisher website but then later comes back to the marketer’s website and converts). 

So, now what?! Let’s roll up our sleeves, and here is what you can do now and what the future holds:

  • Contextual Targeting: Back 12 years ago in digital marketing, contextual targeting was all of the rage (the first kind of targeting offered besides run-of-site or sections).  This cookieless solution has always been in our back pockets and recently hasn’t received the credit it should. Based on crawlers on a website, contextual technology can target ads based on relevant content on a page. For example, let’s talk about the shoes again. There is an article talking about the new Jordans, so we place the shoe ad right on that page.  This seems basic, but partners like the Trade Desk are developing more robust contextual targeting to be laser-focused on the targeting criteria we need to match brands to likely consumers. It is our recommendation to bring contextual targeting back into the mix for testing in Q1 and Q2 this year.
  • Location Data: Location data utilizes MAID (mobile advertising IDs) and are already a viable cookieless solution for marketers that we use on a daily basis for clients. For example, if you want to target the family vacationer, we will place geofences on family vacation spots (i.e amusement parks, resorts, and etc.). It is our recommendation to review and update your consumer journey maps to find their affinity brand locations (i.e. Starbucks, Target, and etc.).
  • LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution: According to LiveRamp “Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS) establishes scaled identity without third-party cookies through trusted and transparent first-party authentications consumers have with brands and publishers. ATS enables individuals to participate in a two-way value exchange with brands and publishers. By authenticating themselves, individuals are able to maintain control over the use of their data. In return for individuals’ trust, brands and publishers can create valuable experiences and content. This is the promise of a trusted ecosystem.” This integration is ready to use in February for testing our client’s first-party data in The Trade Desk.  Read more from LiveRamp.
  • The Trade Desk’s Unified 2.0: According to The Trade Desk: “Unified ID 2.0 is a new industry-wide approach to internet identity that preserves the value of relevant advertising while putting user control and privacy at the forefront. The ID is an upgrade and an alternative to third-party cookies.” This approach is very similar to LiveRamp’s ATS solution with two-way value exchange with brands and publishers. However, it is important to note that this solution currently solves the remarketing, behavioral, frequency capping, and attribution with pixels.  Their new ID solution will be ready in the second half of 2021 for testing. Read more from The Trade Desk.

We expect there to be a late-year panic for brands who decide to ride out the year without making consideration plans, including testing new options throughout the year. But for those who take this seriously early, I want to let you know it will be OK. We just have to accept this is our future then innovate into a new, more reliable world.