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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Newsweek and Discovery are ready for the cookieless web. Are you?

August 23, 2021 | By Travis Clinger, SVP, Head of Addressability And Ecosystem – LiveRamp @tclinger

We all know that the days of the cookie as the primary means to ad targeting and personalization are coming to an end. From increased legislation to ongoing browser updates, the time has come to put the cookie behind us and move forward. The good news is that there are tried and true methods that ensure the free flow of information and effective advertising. 

While brands, publishers, and platforms are likely to leverage cookies for as long as they can, the industry has viable solutions and advertisers should take advantage of them. Those who have gotten a head start already see the benefits of an addressable, cookieless solution that enables authenticated user experiences. Brands and publishers that have already made the transition should use this time to establish stronger relationships based on trust through first-party data strategies. Those who haven’t yet started the journey away from third-party cookies should get started right away by leveraging a trusted, first-party authenticated solution. 

Authenticated audiences

Previously, brands looking to reach their audiences have been overcompensating for the lack of a transparent, authenticated solution. Data-driven publishers, with established, first-party relationships can leverage their authenticated data so marketers can target audiences and measure campaign outcomes with people-based identity. 

In the past, marketers looking for a measurable solution had to turn to social platforms’ walled gardens, which have enjoyed the benefits of disproportionate media investments. Historically, advertisers spent 60% of their digital advertising budget on reaching audiences in walled gardens, allotting only 40% of the budget to the open web. Yet, consumers spent more than half of their time on the open web (66%), compared to just 34% on closed platforms. 

As independent publishers embrace the tactics of walled gardens, they leverage first-party authentications to deliver better, more targeted advertising. Initial campaign results from two publishers, Newsweek and Discovery, illustrate that an authenticated, cookieless solution has proven effective.

People-based solutions

Publishers and brands can now connect identities without the use of cookies or compromising data. For example, Newsweek was able to better plan and execute on advertisers’ marketing campaigns by leveraging a people-based, privacy-safe, cookieless solution that enabled publishers and brands to match identities. 

Leveraging solutions independent of third-party cookies, the Newsweek team saw a total lift in eCPM as high as 224%, with an average lift of 52% across all web browsers. The lift in specific browsers — a CPM lift of 55% on Google Chrome, and a 93% and 60% CPM lift on Firefox and Safari, respectively — indicates the significant impact the new, cookieless solution can drive as an alternative to third-party cookies and in cookieless environments. 

Although third-party cookies are still a capability in Chrome, Newsweek benefited from an audience lift on the browser by activating on the new cookieless solution. Because both Firefox and Safari no longer enable audience reach with third-party cookies, the lift on both browsers demonstrates how the cookieless solution enables a new, more premium channel based on authentications where marketers and advertisers can reach an audience they were not previously able to.

Newsweek’s COO Alvaro Palacios said, “Newsweek has proven through testing that digital media does not need third-party cookies to increase yields and the value of our inventory. This ID solution provides the infrastructure to match our readers with a brand’s customers, for marketing that could be more effective than with third-party cookies.”

On mobile devices, publishers are also seeing a higher CPM than on cookieless mobile web inventory. Through their new ID solution, Newsweek also achieved a CPM lift of 53% on iOS, compared to those that did not activate on this ID. Discovery Inc., a publisher with sites including HGTV.com, TravelChannel.com, FoodNetwork.com and DIYNetwork.com, also saw an average eCPM increase of 44% when enabling activation on the same ID solution on their cookieless inventory. 

A new ecosystem where publishers and brands win

The CPM improvements that benefit Newsweek  and Discovery are just an example of the incremental revenue opportunities achieved by leveraging an authenticated solution. As publishers continue to grow their addressable inventory, their revenue will also flourish. Brand marketers can now buy inventory activated by authenticated, first-party data. This enables them to reach more consumers on more channels than ever before. And that’s something third-party cookies were never able to achieve. 

While third-party cookies may still exist in the near-term, advertisers should take advantage of the proven, more viable solution already available. Consider the cellular network transition from 4G to 5G. With speeds 100 times faster than 4G and better connectivity for seamless user experiences, 5G is the clear winner for a preferred connection. Yet, 4G still exists. In this same way, having already proven themselves to be more effective, authenticated cookieless solutions have also become the preferred solution while third-party cookies remain. 

The digital advertising industry is constantly balancing the interests of publishers, brands, and browsers. The sometimes-competing interests may feel like a three-way tug-of-war at times. However, there are proven viable alternatives to third-party cookies that benefit brands and publishers equally.

To get ahead of impending browser changes, publishers must own their trusted first-party consumer relationships through authenticated solutions. Once publishers succeed in establishing trust with their consumers, they will then be able to develop a relationship that’s independent of cookies. And that will improve the user experience and increase yield for publishers and the brands that work for them.

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