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How cookie deprecation puts publishers in a sweet spot

March 3, 2021 | By Jim Egan, VP, Global Strategic Sales – IAS @integralads

Among the many changes witnessed in 2020, cookie deprecation has sparked conversation throughout the industry. Technological shifts, driven by browsers, alongside increased privacy legislation combine to create new challenges for advertisers looking to reach specific audiences. As a result, IAS found that 49% of industry experts surveyed in our 2021 Industry Pulse Report listed third-party cookie deprecation as the top challenge for the upcoming year.

The implications for advertisers have been widely listed: targeting, measurement, and attribution will all be affected. But what does it mean for publishers? And how will it shape relationships with advertisers and ad tech vendors? 

How did we get here? 

While browsers are undoubtedly driving the pace of cookie deprecation, consumer concerns about privacy and data collection also play a role. Last year, IAS found that 88% of consumers are aware that websites and apps collect and share their data for advertising purposes. And, unaspiringly, this finding coincides with increasing global privacy legislation. Between cookie deprecation and legal requirements, the industry is witnessing a seismic shift in how digital ads will reach consumer audiences. 

What are the implications? 

The bad news is obvious: Third-party cookie deprecation challenges current methods of audience targeting, attribution, cross-channel targeting, and measurement. However, that doesn’t mean third-party cookies provide the best method for reaching consumers.

Third-party cookies are not only limited to web environments, but they also have device and household limitations. In other words, third-party cookies don’t necessarily have a one-to-one relationship to actual consumers. Therefore, it can’t represent a precise “identity.” The good news? Knowing this, third-party cookie deprecation presents the industry with an opportunity to find something better. For publishers, the shift creates an opening to regain control over the value of their media and how they provide it. 

How do publishers play a role? 

In the short term, publishers can help advertisers leverage current technology that bypasses the use of third-party cookies. By proactively responding to the shifting environment and enabling the use of existing, developing solutions, publishers can establish themselves as partners to advertisers in this new era of digital advertising.

Verify that inventory is viewable, brand safe, and fraud free 

Publishers should take time to review their inventory and assess for viewability, brand risk, and fraud. Ensuring that ads have the opportunity to be seen by real people, in brand suitable environments will remain the first step for advertisers looking to connect with consumers. By proactively evaluating content, publishers will be positioning themselves as partners to advertisers in the evolving digital landscape.   

Work with a partner to optimize advertiser KPIs 

Verification companies can provide more than reporting capabilities. Publishers should consider partnering with a verification provider that delivers solutions which automatically optimize their inventory toward advertiser KPIs. 

Unlock value with contextual targeting

As the industry seeks alternatives for audience targeting and identity resolution, contextual targeting is experiencing an innovation renaissance. Industry innovators have been revisiting the technology, improving it, and creating new, exciting solutions to propel targeting tactics forward.

Publishers who package their inventory with content in mind will have an advantage in building relationships with advertisers shifting toward contextual methods. Additionally, publishers can work with verification partners that pre-screen pages and develop curated pre-bid segments to ensure they’re helping brands target the right environments for their audiences.  

What about the longer term? 

In the long run, the future of identity resolution will require advertisers to work directly with trusted partners across the entire ecosystem. While there is unlikely to be a single silver bullet solution, publishers should be considering the consumer, what devices they’re using, and how to marry various identifiers to create a robust understanding of their user.

All aspects, from email addresses in an effort to build Pseudonymous Deterministic Authenticated Identification, to latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates, to CTV IDs should be considered when thinking about working with brands to identify consumers. With direct access to first party data, publishers have intimate knowledge of their consumer base. This will allow them to help advertisers start to piece together identity in the absence of third-party cookies. 

As cookie deprecation approaches, publishers should expect brands to become more reliant on their data and content expertise. However, despite the challenges ahead, publishers hold the key to establishing themselves as trusted partners in this rapidly changing ecosystem. 

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