How Digitas Is Prepping Clients For The Cookieless Future

cookieless future
Preparing for the end of the cookie isn’t just the job of tech companies building alternate solutions. It’s also the job of the agency.

“If you’re not taking advantage of this time, you’re doing yourself a disservice,” said Liane Nadeau, SVP and head of precision media at Digitas. While there’s still 18 months left before Google Chrome drops them as well, the cookieless future is already here, she said.

With Firefox and Safari already blocking third-party cookies, Digitas clients’ spend already skews toward Chrome, where it can still reach audiences using third-party cookies. For some clients, up to 70% of addressable spend has shifted to Chrome, when it holds just half of the audience market share.

Marketers end up spending more on Chrome because third-party cookies allow them to find more of their users in that browser. Because cookieless environments can only measure for click-through attribution, not view-through conversions, bidding algorithms further bias inventory away from Safari and Firefox.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Digitas clients tested solutions that work without third-party cookies during the first half of the year. “We have a great roster of clients who care a lot about where this industry is heading. Their appetite for testing is there,” Nadeau said.

Testing tech

Digitas’ own testing includes cookieless targeting and measuring solutions from Epsilon as well as LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solutions, both of which identify users through first-party cookies.

Testing allows Digitas to understand how they operate in the wild as part of a larger marketing system. For example, both the LiveRamp and Epsilon solutions can measure if a person sees an ad, doesn’t click, but later buys (a view-through conversion). But if an advertiser is using an ad server with third-party cookies as its system of measurement, a common setup, that view-through conversion information is missing, so it can’t be easily pushed back into the DSP’s algorithm to train future bidding.

Digitas is also refining its approach around context, where the agency hopes to move beyond broad contextual areas – such as food – to something more precise.

“Buying on broad categories isn’t enough. We want to understand the true topic of the page, and the mindset of someone when they are on that page,” Nadeau said – and they’re looking at vendors developing solutions in this area, such as DoubleVerify.

Brands’ first-party data

Digitas is encouraging clients to think about their customer databases and adopting tech such as CDPs that let them organize and use data across multiple channels.

Nadeau feels strongly that brands need to be the stewards of their own data. “Agencies like ours are absolutely able to support them, but at the end of the day, brands need to own their data.”

When Digitas is evaluating potential identity solutions, it’s focused on using first-party data from brands and publishers, who build direct relationships with consumers and can ask for consent.

“The only solution that is going to work long term is one that addresses consumer privacy concerns,” she said. “Consumer trust has to be at the core of whatever we build – otherwise we will be in the same situation for another two years.”

A future without cookies

Digitas is betting on a number of technologies to help marketers after the end of third-party cookies, and Nadeau believes no one solution will solve for everything.

“You’re going to have a multi-stack world,” Nadeau predicted.

Brands also need to use the solutions that exist today.

“If you are waiting for the solutions to come out of the open ecosystem and working groups – which I absolutely support – you are going to be too late,” she said.

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