How Publishers And Advertisers Can Work Together To Prepare For The Cookieless Future

Rachel Parkin headshotThe Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Rachel Parkin, executive vice president of strategy and sales at CafeMedia.

I’m doing a lot of prepping lately. With increased demand and stressed supply chains, I’m ordering staples further in advance and stockpiling.

We know a cookie “shortage” is coming to our digital ecosystem, and the solution isn’t as simple as stockpiling cookies today to save for the future. (They will expire, after all!)

However, we can prepare. And the best preparation is for advertisers and publishers, the two parties with direct consumer relationships, to partner together to explore and test solutions for the way forward.

Listen and learn

The place for publishers and advertisers to start collaborating is to listen and learn. Publishers and advertisers alike are formulating approaches to tracking their own first-party data. Building each of these in a vacuum won’t do anything to bridge the gap between them. We must find a way to unite first-party data to maintain advertising relevance and attribution.

Publishers and advertisers have started to research new technology solutions, including logged-in email capture and other systems. If publishers land on one set of providers and advertisers choose another, then there will be no hope of overlap. In better coordinating, buyers and sellers may also find common ground in feedback and feature requests to focus tech partners and the larger industry on what would constitute a viable product.

By sharing thoughts on these potential approaches, we can start to coalesce around a common set of partners and methodologies to test. We need to run end-to-end tests that connect identification solutions from the publisher all the way through RTB pipes to the buyer. The goal is to answer questions about reach, scale and technological feasibility and to ensure privacy compliance.

Test and experiment

The advantage of advanced notice for the deprecation of cookies is that it gives us time to evaluate replacement strategies and ease the pain of migration.

One key area of change is user segmentation. Google’s TURTLEDOVE privacy framework proposes interest groups as an alternative to one-to-one cookie targeting. An open question for publishers and advertisers to test is whether these cohort-based audiences drive the same performance as third-party cookies. Similarly, context-based advertising will operate in much the same way as it does today but has been underused to date.

Advertisers can partner with publishers to use the deeper intent of context rather than broad channels – for example, “stand mixer reviews” vs. “food” – to compare performance with third-party audiences. More specificity of context may provide an already privacy-compliant route to drive results.

Another critical function that will change is attribution. Proposals for future pathways are a bit more clearly laid out but still unvalidated. If browsers store information on pre-defined user segments or campaign parameters and pass those signals along in aggregate, would advertisers have enough intel to assess which campaign elements are driving the strongest return? Publishers and advertisers can define experiments to simulate what future measurement could look like in order to provide much-needed feedback on the specs being defined.

The evolution of identity will also open white space and new avenues to navigate. These are all topics for exploration too.

The mechanism and economics of passing interest-targeting information is uncharted territory.  User segment groups would be divorced from the environment in which an advertisement is served to them. Instead of impression CPMs paid based on ads served to groups, a new framing may perhaps be cost-per-interest pricing based on the size of the group available to receive the advertisements.

Validating the benefits for these segmentation and attribution options will inform the importance and valuation of logged-in users vs. interest groups vs. unknown consumers in setting a shared agenda for the future of advertising on the open web.

Collect and share findings

Publishers and advertisers can’t stop at experimentation and information sharing on a one-to-one basis. Although publishers and advertisers are the most important stakeholders after consumers, we are largely outsiders in the process of defining the standards for the next generation of advertising.

These specifications are being set by engineers at browsers who may not fully grasp all implications for “end-users.” Creating influence will take strength in numbers. We need to take the findings of our experimentations and share them with as many people as possible – even shout them from the rooftops. Doing our homework and being vocal is the best way to maintain a thriving internet for us all: consumers, advertisers and publishers.

Publishers don’t have all the answers, and neither do advertisers. Working together, we can clear up what we know and don’t know, and bring the future a little bit more into focus.

Follow CafeMedia (@CafeMedia_) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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