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To thrive in the post-cookie era, web publishers must act now

January 26, 2021 | By Eliot Dahood, Chief Technical Officer – BritePool @BritePoolMedia

As we enter a new year, most tech departments look to create a product creation and upgrade schedule for the year, which then gets divided into two or three-week sprints. As publishers undertake that process this year, I have two overarching thoughts:

First, recent events continue to suggest  that Google will deprecate the third-party cookie by the end of this year. As a CTO, it seems to me that publishers must deploy minimal but real changes to code-on-page to take advantage of new identity marketing solutions.

Second, most publishers declare a “code freeze” in the fourth quarter due to heavy advertising volume. Indeed, with its lower ad volumes, the first quarter is when publishers typically implement new technical capabilities.

These two facts lead me to recommend that web publishers immediately begin to deploy the code associated with new identity resolution services. This will allow them to capture the highest revenues, avoid hectic scrambling, and minimize technical risk.

Will Google eliminate the third-party cookie on schedule?

Early last year, Google announced it would eliminate third-party cookies “within two years.” Subsequently, Google officials stated that this timetable might be delayed, mainly if the industry’s replacement solution was not in-place.

At BritePool, we believe Google will follow-through with its original timetable. At a recent PRAM (Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media) meeting, Stu Ingis, chairman of the Venable law firm, discussed the urgency of completing PRAM’s work (in conjunction with the IAB Tech Lab) to be prepared for the elimination of third-party cookies.

Similarly, eMarketer recently spoke with industry experts to review the changes confronting advertisers and publishers that will have “significant effects on how they do business.” This list prominently included “Google’s planned deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome by early 2022.”

But won’t Google provide a lengthy notice period?

Google’s initial announcement included a schedule, with a two-year period, for the adtech ecosystem to prepare for the demise of third-party cookies. There is no reason to believe Google will provide an additional lengthy notice period before acting. It is easy to imagine that at the start of this year’s fourth quarter, Google will simply confirm that by the end of the year, it will eliminate third-party cookies, as planned.

How does this fit into privacy reform?

BritePool’s COO previously wrote that a Democratic election victory would lead to national privacy legislation. Now, Republican concerns associated with social media “censorship” mean a bipartisan consensus for legislative reform is developing.

In this firmament, we believe Google will conclude that it will benefit by following Apple with privacy-centric browser management. Moreover, Google officials who suggested the possibility of delay indicated Google would act when the industry is ready.

Now, multiple industry solutions are available.  For example, BritePool and LiveRamp have both demonstrated the viability of their cookieless identity resolution offerings. And PubMatic has launched its Identity Hub.

My advice? Act now

eMarketer concluded its review by stating, “It’s critical for advertisers to start testing approaches to targeting these types of users and measuring results now—while the traditional signals are still available for them to make comparisons.” My advice for web publishers is the same: It is critical to start implementing new cookieless targeting capabilities.

Acting now benefits publishers in multiple ways. It eliminates the high technical risk potentially associated with scrambling to adopt identity resolution services late this year. Publishers gain experience by running pilot campaigns with these new capabilities and can optimize their offerings for 2022. Finally, it increases the CPM’s for programmatic traffic throughout this year, in part by accessing the users of Safari and Firefox browsers, which currently block third-party cookies automatically.

Editor’s note: This article was submitted, and set for publication, before this week’s Wall Street Journal article confirming that Google would eliminate third-party cookies. This Journal reporting reinforces the significance of the related analyses in this article. 

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