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Are you ready? Two-thirds of publishers aren’t prepared for a cookieless future

Despite the many challenges media companies face as they prepare for a cookieless advertising future, there is a positive outlook among some publishers.

June 17, 2024 | By James Colborn, Global VP, Data – Teads

The digital media landscape is on the brink of a transformative shift with the impending phase-out of third-party cookies. Despite Google’s latest delay, adoption is slow while the urgency for adaptation remains high. Teads recently undertook a survey to shed light on the preparedness of global publishers. It reveals a striking disparity in readiness and confidence, and found an alarmingly low level of digital media companies that are prepared for the state of advertising in a cookieless world.

The current digital ad landscape

Teads surveyed 555 publishers across 58 countries, uncovering critical insights. Alarmingly, only 32% of publishers are actively preparing for the cookieless advertising future. This indicates a significant portion of the digital media industry is delaying action, potentially waiting until the deprecation’s full impact becomes unavoidable. However, some organizations are taking proactive measures to be ready for the change. 

Confusion and confidence

Our survey reveals that 53% of publishers feel overwhelmed by the numerous cookieless advertising solutions available, and only 28% feel confident in their understanding of the new landscape. This confusion is a significant barrier to effective adaptation. Heather Carver, Chief Revenue Officer at Freestar, notes the importance of developing durable technologies and strategies. “We’re using this time as an opportunity to strengthen our cookieless solutions. We’re focusing on developing durable technologies and strategies that will remain relevant regardless of cookie policies.”

Anticipating the financial impact

Publishers expect the financial implications of the cookieless transition to be substantial. Approximately 45% of publishers expect a significant decrease in ad revenue, with a 120% increase in concern year-over-year. This is underscored by findings that cookieless traffic not only fills less but also yields less, putting revenue streams at risk.

Login struggles

Despite the many challenges media companies face as they prepare for a cookieless advertising future, there is a positive outlook among some publishers. About 44% see the transition as an opportunity to leverage their first-party data and enhance content quality. Furthermore, 37% of respondents appreciate the privacy benefits of cookieless solutions expressing confidence in finding new ways to monetize their content. 

Preparation and proactive identity solutions

As publishers adapt to this brave new world, many are experimenting with cookieless solutions and leveraging first-party data to set themselves up for success in the years to come.

Kedar Prabhu, VP of Product Management at Dow Jones, highlights the importance of leveraging first-party data in a world with or without cookies. “By focusing on the wealth of data generated by our direct and long-standing relationships with subscribers, we’ve not only prepared ourselves for the post-cookie world but have also unlocked new opportunities for growth and engagement,” Prabhu said. “We can offer our advertisers targeted, effective ad placements based on direct audiences composed of known users and enriched with real, meaningful insights into preferences and behaviors, all while maintaining the privacy standards that our customers and regulators expect.”

Similarly, the IAB is undertaking efforts to develop standards that support the industry’s transition. Angelina Eng, VP of IAB’s Measurement, Addressability & Data Center, emphasizes the need for robust guidelines: “We see this as a critical time to advance our guidelines and frameworks to support the industry’s transition,” Eng said. “We’re accelerating our efforts to develop standards that address the needs of a cookieless web, ensuring that all parties can navigate this shift smoothly.”

Other publishers, like Freestar, are using this time as an opportunity to strengthen our cookieless solutions. “We’re focusing on developing durable technologies and strategies that will remain relevant regardless of cookie policies,” Carver said. “The extension doesn’t change our momentum. But it allows us more stability for testing and implementing these solutions.”

Tier-specific insights and strategies

The survey also highlights differences in readiness and strategy among various tiers of publishers:

Tier 1 Publishers: Leading the Charge

  • 52% believe the changes offer an opportunity to differentiate through first-party data and content quality.
  • 62% have a signed-in strategy, and 38% employ dedicated resources for cookieless solutions.
  • 74% engage directly with advertisers using first-party data.

Mid-Tier Publishers: Strong Adaptation

  • 74% engage directly with advertisers through first-party data.
  • 32% have a strong grasp of the evolving digital landscape.
  • 36% have specific resources for exploring cookieless technologies.

Lower Tier Publishers: Facing Challenges

  • Greater dependence on industry solutions like Seller Defined Audiences (SDA).
  • Only 22% have a strong understanding of the shift towards a cookieless advertising framework.
  • 17% are testing cookieless alternatives, reflecting a slower response to industry changes.

As Simon Klein, Global SVP of Supply at Teads, states, “Despite Google’s recent announcement, the phase-out has only been delayed until early 2025, and the reality of a cookieless world is here,” Klein said. “This data underscores the urgent need for industry-wide adaptation and the critical role of innovative solutions in this transition.” 

Digital media executives must adopt innovative technologies and forward-thinking strategies to successfully navigate the realities of a cookieless world. While many are in a wait and see holding pattern, there’s no time to waste. This isn’t a question of when. This change is inevitable. Proactive publishers are not only poised to be ready for the cookieless future of digital advertising, they are employing solutions that are helping them do better business today. 

About the author

James is a data leader with over 20 years of experience in digital advertising. As the Global VP of Data at Teads, he leads a team focused on data-driven solutions and the cookieless transition. He previously held senior roles at Microsoft, Verizon, AOL, and Yahoo, excelling in data-driven marketing strategies. A fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, James enjoys racing cars, cooking, and traveling.

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