Top 6 Cookieless Advertising Solutions
23 January 2024
TARGETING AND IDENTITY SOLUTIONS TO PREPARE FOR A COOKIELESS ADVERTISING FUTURE
Third-party cookies were a keystone of digital advertising for the better part of a decade, but due to a combination of harsher privacy laws and public scrutiny, the third-party cookie is going to all but die out entirely by the end of 2024.
Google Chrome is phasing out third-party cookies entirely by the end of the year, spelling the death knell for a technology hammered by regulatory changes such as the GDPR and CCPA. It means advertisers have to find another keystone.
But there isn’t just one miracle technology to fill those giant shoes. Here are the top six cookieless advertising solutions that the industry – both advertisers and publishers – is embracing.
6 cookieless advertising alternatives
1. First-party data
We know that first-party data is more accurate than third-party data. Brands and publishers, both big and small, must focus on using first-party data more strategically and in different ways.
Email addresses, in particular, will become the main focus for publishers. Login data is considered the highest standard of consumer data as it implies consent and accuracy, and it can be used as granular input for targeting and personalization. It’s even more valuable when consumers validate this data; for example, when a user signs up to receive emails or text messages in return for a discount or other benefit.
Let’s remember with first-party data collection advertisers and publishers are required to follow proper data privacy management, both from a regulatory standpoint, but also from a consumer engagement point of view. If brands aren’t engaging consumers in the right way with relevant information using first-party data targeting, then it’s pointless.
For large sites and networks that can request and implement logins for access to content, or those who with newsletters and frequent communication via email – sites like nytimes.com, spiegel.de, ilsole24ore.it, lefigaro.fr – first-party data will be the golden ticket.
Smaller publishers with loyal users who consume a lot of content may have a harder time scaling their first-party data growth. For first-party targeting to be effective and accurate, you need a lot of data to gain enough insightful information combined with AI and machine learning. One solution is joining a consortium or finding a first-party data partner to stay profitable.
Chief Technology Officer at Eyeota, Anand Das comments in his post for Smartbrief:
The key is to start early (as in now) in order to collect a meaningful amount of consumer data or establish partnerships to scale.
2. Google Topics (formerly FLoC)
To replace the third-party cookie, Google proposed the concept of Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) in 2019, and then promptly scrapped it in 2022 due to it not adhering to the GDPR.
FLoC, in essence, was meant to circumvent the issues cookies present by clumping users into interest groups based on their browsing history, meaning it was less granular than the individual third-party cookie.
The biggest issue with FLoC, other than the unnecessarily complex name, was a concern that FLoC data could too easily be combined with users’ personal data, meaning personal information about page visits and interests could be exposed.
Google introduced Topics in 2022 to both fix FLoC’s name and privacy issues. Similarly to FLoC, Topics identifies a number of topics that a particular user will be interested in, including one dummy topic intended to throw off bad actors attempting to find a user’s identity.
For greater privacy, access to a user’s topics is limited to publishers and advertisers to only what’s strictly necessary, for relevant advertising for a particular topic. Get more details about Google Topics here.
3. Attention metrics
Advertisers are perfecting their strategies with attention measurement, a new practice that goes further than prior industry standard measurements such as viewability and view-through.
By getting a strong idea of how many impressions resulted in actual attention being paid to the ad, marketers can fine-tune their campaigns to maximize impact.
How does attention measurement work?
Though we at ShowHeroes have conducted a lab study to measure attention via eye-tracking in the past, attention metrics at scale don’t require that level of equipment!
They’re based on attention metric models, formulae that combine measurable factors into an estimate of attention paid.
Check how Kay Schneider, SVP Global Product and Business Development, explains more with his ShowHow series.
4. Universal IDs
Universal ID, or shared ID, solutions attempt to map 1:1 what was previously done with cookies by using first-party data and offline data to create a user identifier (user ID). The Universal ID is created by consortiums (IAB, Advertising ID Consortium) and ad tech companies to identify users without having to sync cookies.
Unlike cookies which are based on probabilistic matching, most Universal IDs are created on the basis of deterministic matching. By using both first-party data (CRM) and offline data, a Universal ID can be constructed. One advantage of using universal IDs is that publishers and marketers can eliminate data loss and user duplication that happens when syncing cookie information across multiple platforms.
Here’s a great analogy by Jordan Mitchell, CEO at DigiTrust:
What are the benefits of Universal IDs?
For advertisers, universal IDs provide a way to activate valuable first-party CRM data in a way that protects user privacy with encryption and user-controlled opt-out.
For publishers, universal IDs benefit from increased audience engagement with relevant and personalized advertising and frequency management across devices.
Source: DoubleVerify, “Post-Cookie Questions: How Advertising Strategies and Sentiments Are Evolving”, May 1st, 2023
5. Contextual targeting and semantic technologies
Modern contextual targeting is not your grandma’s context targeting. Contextual targeting today uses semantics, natural language processing of on-page text, the URL and meta information, combined with artificial intelligence and data processing in real time.
Couple that with programmatic buying, contextual targeting allows advertisers to safely rely on automated real-time purchase of individual ad impressions while perfectly matching ads to websites, articles and video content, rather than guessing who their target audiences might be.
Contextual targeting is privacy-safe and, with increasing data sophistication, more vendors will be investing in the technology.
Joe Manalac, senior agency sales partner at Oracle Data Cloud, elaborates on contextual targeting as a solution in his comment for The Drum:
How does SemanticHero work?
Thanks to the knowledge extracted from analyzing images, audio, and video on the publisher’s websites, our AI-driven semantic matching technology – the SemanticHero – is able to choose the best-fitting content video from the platform’s video library whenever a request is issued through a ShowHeroes content unit. Not only is the choice of the content video based on semantic matching, also a corresponding ad will be chosen and inserted by our adserver.
“100% more full views and 3x more engagements are being generated for content videos delivered by our Semantic Hero engine when compared to videos in static playlists. We call this hyper-contextual targeting: when users find matching video content within an article, it is substantially more relevant to them than e.g. video recommendations based on user targeting. ShowHeroes semantic targeting offers best results for publishers, advertisers, and users at the same time while remaining 100% GDPR compliant and not relying on user tracking.”
ShowHeroes Group CEO, Ilhan Zengin, elaborates on semantic targeting as an alternative:
6. Cohorts and Data Clean Rooms
Data clean rooms are places where walled gardens like Google, Facebook and Amazon share aggregated rather than customer-level data with advertisers, while still exerting strict controls.
Advertisers with first-party data will benefit the most from clean rooms as they offer a privacy-compliant methodology for matching first-party data.
How do clean rooms work?
First-party data from the advertiser is added to the same space in order to compare how it matches with aggregated data from other platforms. With this process, one can evaluate how different data sets match up, and then determine whether the right ads are reaching the same audiences and how many times.
The exact structure of a clean room isn’t bound to adhere to regulations other than general privacy protection, and beyond that how much or how little data is shared between parties, and how that’s done, is dependant on their agreements.
That does, however, leave room for mistakes or even deliberate fraud. That’s why in 2023, the IAB released its official advisory guidance on clean room structuring.
They double as a best practice guide for those wanting to set up clean rooms for the first time, as well as cautions against issues such as “collusion scenarios” whereby publishers see unencrypted data flow.
What are the advantages?
Data clean rooms can deliver ad impression data at massive scale; however, within walled gardens, clean rooms are “programmed to receive data, but not to let it leave.” For multi-platform versions, clean rooms offer an ability to do multi-channel and multi-touch attribution at scale, across channels. Some clean room technology platforms have integrated audience graphs for matching, others leave that to the advertisers and partners to piece together.
Despite being expensive investments, they’re widely used. The IAB’s State of Data Report 2023 found that 64% of companies leveraging privacy preserving technologies are using DCRs.
Digiday journalist Seb Joseph explains in his WTF is a data clean room ? article, “Google, Facebook and Amazon offer alternatives but logistical and political challenges that arise working with these giant platforms can put a strain on all parties. It’s also not within the walled gardens’ best interests to cede too much data to advertisers given how much value they derive from controlling their own data, particularly targeting data.”
THE PRESENT AND FUTURE OF COOKIELESS ADVERTISING
Publishers, advertisers, agencies, and consortiums must work together to adapt to the changing market and essentially respond to the real message behind third-party data deprecation: consumer concern around privacy.
On the advertiser’s side, there is a real need for brand safety. Advertisers want their campaigns placed in safe and appropriate environments. Working alongside publishers on alternative targeting solutions will allow for their messages to hit the right audience in premium environments.
Our advice is: don’t rely on a single cookieless solution. Whether you are a publisher or advertiser, depending on a single provider or solution could significantly impact your business with new regulations or policy updates. Large marketers can experiment in all pools with big budgets while some publishers might lean more on context, others on authenticated IDs.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how ShowHeroes Group contextual solutions can support your next campaigns or monetization efforts, please get in touch with us.