Getting ready for the uncertainty of marketing without third-party cookies

Jonas Jaanimagi

  • Technology lead, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Australia
Jonas has been working as technology lead for IAB Australia since January 2017, having previously been a board member for almost five years. Prior to this, he was head of media strategy and operations as well as head of media at REA Group. Jonas’s digital career began in 1999 when he joined a startup financial publisher with three people, which over an 8-year period grew to an organisation of over 100 staff. Jonas then founded and launched WebAds UK, a specialist business and finance digital ad-sales house. After successfully driving the business to profitability, Jonas was head-hunted by Hi-Media, Europe’s largest independent ad network with access to more than 150 million unique users. Prior to moving to Australia with REA Group in 2012, Jonas worked at Videology as director of product management for Europe.

By the end of 2022, as things stand, third-party cookies will be no more. As a result, marketers will be facing much-publicised limitations in how they manage their digital marketing - impacting frequency controls, campaign targeting and attribution/measurement.  

The repercussion of this death of the cookie will be wide-ranging in practice. In response, the industry has made strong progress towards identifying collaborative approaches and solutions that will provide genuine support for the marketing industry once these changes are introduced.    

Global industry focus on rearchitecting digital marketing to adapt for the impending limitations to come has been underway for almost a year now, driven by IAB Tech Lab. More than 700 people from 40 different countries representing over 400 companies and 20 trade industry organisations have participated in this process through Project Rearc. The aim is to provide a globally consistent set of technical standards that can enable the business needs, consumer privacy requirements and accountability mechanisms for digital marketing to continue to thrive from 2023 onwards.  

Project Rearc is now into the critical phase of assessing the various proposals that will feed into the building and testing of the resulting required frameworks of standards to come.  

While there are still many moving pieces, there are some practical and immediate considerations marketers can and should be focusing on among all the noise.  

From a technical perspective, the solutions fall into three or four distinct approaches. But in practice, the focus can be distilled down to one important and achievable recommendation for marketers:  Gain a competent understanding of the opportunities and challenges related to working with authenticated users and with anonymous consumers.  

Working with authenticated consumers  

We can be very confident the future for responsibly collected consensual and privacy compliant first-party data is guaranteed regardless of the evolving mechanisms, new privacy requirements and legislative limitations. As a result, a strong understanding of the important related roles both identity management and addressability play in digital marketing is key for all marketers.  

Establishing an open relationship with consumers and allowing them to store their consumer data securely is key. Having the capabilities to then ensure they can regularly authenticate themselves will allow a persistent and universal identity graph for each consumer to be constructed.  

Known as a universal ID, this provides a singular view of each consumer which is persistent, consistent and valid across all and any appropriate data collection channels. The implicit design of universal ID frameworks requires users to identify themselves, usually by logging in or via multi-factor authentication. This obviously has an enormous positive impact on quality, but also limitations on scale.  

Examples of some of the current identity solutions available include The Trade Desk Unified ID 2.0, LiveRamp's IdentityLink, ID5, Neustar's Fabrick, Tapad, Zeotap and others.  

The responsible collection and management of a universal ID is one thing, but to activate this asset it must become addressable for the purposes of targeting, campaign management and measurement. Much in the same way we currently do with cookies, the tokenised versions of these IDs must be anonymously matched between buyers and sellers.  

The more complex nature of these solutions and the investment required makes it critical for marketers to have a genuine focus on a first-party data audience strategy. This is both in terms of enabling, growing and deploying their own data assets (such as permission-based CRM records) in a privacy compliant manner but also in being able to partner with other parties to maximise the identification coverage or else make their IDs more fully and widely addressable.  

Once third-party cookies are eliminated, the success of any one universal ID will be dependent upon the level of adoption of the ID across the ecosystem. We are seeing a few ID solutions coming into play and hopefully these can be made fully interoperable in the future and enable mutual growth democratically. Certainly, the IAB will always champion the collaborative approach.  

Last year, the IAB Data council published a Data Handbook covering much of the above in more detail and with specific background and guidance, including the efforts to bring transparency and consistency to audience segments through the Data Label initiative. It’s a dry but very useful read.  

Working with anonymous consumers  

Behavioural and contextual targeting are making a sincere comeback because they are very safe as a general approach for any consumer privacy related concerns. Indeed, these solutions are here to stay as they will enable the passing of content-based and contextual attributes only, underpinned by standardised taxonomies, without any user IDs.  

Many publishers are now happily embracing the value of contextual as it nostalgically increases the importance of and value of the content on their pages and related interest groups that can be created. It also avoids having an unhealthy obsession with relentless registrations, ID management and discrete authentications.  

For some time now, detailed semantics have been providing phenomenal insights into the contextual value and meaning of content due to the content, form, style or origin of text - rather than simply assessing the traditional linguistic definition of any words or keywords. Too often, this type of technology has been solely focused on mitigating risks related to keywords and inappropriate environments for brand safety requirements. But due to the richness of the insights, it can offer far more in terms of valuable targetable attributes. More recently, these attributes have been supercharged by incorporating machine learning capabilities against insights, along with natural language processing and even image recognition.  

Many of the proposals submitted into Project Rearc to address working with anonymous consumers have followed the same lines as an initial proposal from Google called Privacy Sandbox. These submissions (with acronyms which have mysteriously taken on a bird theme), allow publishers and marketers to manage and ultimately match consensual users into predetermined anonymous interest groups, or cohorts. They offer a range of different approaches related to where these anonymous data sets will physically reside, whether the data can successfully and safely feed into any machine learning decisioning and modelling; and where the programmatic auctions would physically take place.    

However, the targeting and measurement for each of these proposals is based on leveraging anonymous consumers, not trackable IDs.  

There is much for marketers to gain by embracing this inevitable trend towards working with anonymous consumers. It’s worth fully testing and understanding the forms of anonymous Web solutions by experimenting with the related insights, opportunities, and potential possibilities. Working with the right vendors is essential as the competence and scale of their capabilities can vary.  

What do I do now?  

All Marketers  

  • Become more au fait with the opportunities and challenges related to working with both authenticated users and anonymous consumers.
  • Keep across the work being done on Project Rearc through updates from IAB Australia.
  • Engage with the changes to come, review your requirements as a business and implement a longer-term audience data strategy – either working in-house or with partners.

Marketers with first-party data  

  • Assess and interrogate the quantity, quality, interoperability and scale of your current in-house data assets. Plan for the mandatory permissioning requirements to come.
  • Review the opportunities for partnerships, to either grow/improve your own data assets and/or increase the addressability and viability of those assets.
  • Engage with IAB Australia on the Data Transparency standards and Data Label initiative.  

Marketers without first-party data    

  • Competently formulate and execute a clear and robust first-party data strategy, either in-house or through appropriate and competent partners.
  • Consider testing more fully anonymous Web solutions and experimenting with the related insights, opportunities and potential possibilities. Some examples of solutions provided by IAB Australia members include Oracle Contextual Intelligence, DoubleVerify Custom Contextual Targeting and Silverbullet’s 4D.
  • Look out for the IAB Australia Data Council’s forthcoming Handbook on Contextual Targeting in 2021.


Tags: digital marketing, cookies, digital advertising, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Australia

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