Here’s a bit of good news for publishers: the sky isn’t falling, at least not anytime soon. Yes, third-party identifiers may one day become a thing of the past, but fear and stagnation during a pivotal time of industry change is unproductive.
Third-party cookie alternatives
Third-party cookies have long been a staple of ad targeting, but a lack of consent and control over how data is collected, used and managed has led to their deprecation due to consumer privacy concerns.
Other forms of ad targeting exist and should be explored vigorously. One way publishers can prepare is to start thinking like marketers. Forrester’s Amita Jain shares some great insight about what buy-side leaders are thinking in her article “How to Target Your Audience Without Third-Party Cookie Data.”
Most importantly, advertisers are contemplating how to activate the valuable first-party data consumers have given them permission to collect. Also of importance is zero-party data, those things consumers have expressly said is of interest to them. Second and third-party data are much different. While collected with express consent, second-party data are less effective because there is no direct relationship with the advertiser. Similarly, third-party data, while a good indicator of certain behaviors, has no direct relationship with the consumer and lacks direct consent.
The more you know about the audience you have, and can gain their trust and active consent to use the data you collect, the better equipped you’ll be to capitalize on it. Start with a simple exchange of value to enrich the relationship — you’ll be surprised how easily consumers will share their email address to receive something other than a newsletter in return.
Brands are also revisiting the role of contextual marketing, which speaks to the changing nature of content and the importance of its quality. Gone are the days of eliciting a click solely to monetize audience data from programmatic feeds. Content is king once again, and higher quality programming will likely be an unintended byproduct of the third-party cookie’s demise.
A data opportunity for publishers
As we explore alternative ways to repackage our audiences, it’s time for supply side players to move beyond “doom-and-gloom” and band together to initiate a season of constructive dialogue and preparation for the future. Instead of a “cookie apocalypse,” let’s start calling it what it is: a “data opportunity” for publishers.
The opportunity is for brands and agencies to place a higher value on our audiences and the quality content we create to keep them engaged.
The opportunity is to reframe how we think about our relationship with audiences; to take stock of the data we already have and to acquire and leverage our own first-party data in ways previously unimaginable.
Removing third-party identifiers from the ecosystem also means that brokers who rely on cookies to identify and monetize consumer behavior will also begin to disappear. While they held an important role in the growth of digital advertising, many will no longer be necessary, leaving open another opportunity: to build direct connections between advertisers and publishers, allowing both sides of the supply chain to reclaim more of their inherent value.
On the demand side of the equation, brands are also evaluating how to better leverage their first-party data. The permission they’ve been given by consumers is more valuable than ever, and they’re actively looking for trusted supply-side partners who know how to activate it in powerful ways.
There are always opportunities during major times of change. In the months ahead, innovative replacements for third-party identifiers will emerge, but the first solutions to market will likely not be the best. Listen, learn and test, but don’t be fooled by a good sales pitch or a well-written website. What’s most important is knowing how to evaluate the winners — not necessarily picking them, but putting yourself in a position to monitor, test and validate the data as new options come forward.
Even the best data is not a panacea, rather it’s a snapshot of what a consumer intended at a moment in time. It’s going to be a process and it will take time, but together the new data opportunity is ours to seize.
Think of it from your customers’ perspective…