Google’s recent decision to sunset third-party cookies has pushed the digital advertising industry into uncharted territory, leaving many advertisers, agencies, and ad tech providers searching for effective alternatives to identify and reach customers and prospects online. What do these changes really mean and how can companies prepare for them? Our James Purtle, Sr. Director, Digital Strategy, shares insights into what advertisers can expect, how they should plan for the cookie-less future and what tools they need to succeed in this brave new world.
For over 8 years James Purtle has driven digital data and media strategy for Fortune 500 brands and Agencies. As an expert in predictive marketing, he has created go-to-market strategies for major programmatic Ad Tech and Data Management platforms and currently helps oversee digital activation strategy for Data Axle. In his free time, he enjoys watching movies with his wife and their two dogs and rooting for the Yankees.
Google Chrome currently makes up 47.53% of browser share in the US.1 Advertisers who rely on third-party cookie environments like DSPs and DMPs for audience targeting should expect considerable disruption in audience scale and accessibility as third-party cookies are deprecated from Google Chrome.
That said, the open internet isn’t going away and while Google is developing alternative interest-based audience clusters to address advertiser demand; there is currently an “arms race” among alternative adtech providers who have developed alternative ID solutions and are pushing for adoption by publishers and demand-side buying platforms to address both first and yes, third party (i.e. unauthenticated/anonymous) media environments (i.e. “the open internet”).
Chief among these providers are The Trade Desk UID 2.0, LiveRamp Identitylink/ATS, Lotame Panorama ID, ID5 Universal ID, and Neustar Fabrick. It remains to be seen which solution or combination of solutions will capture the lion’s share of the market, or how effectively they will be able to address anonymous web traffic, all while adhering to Google’s privacy requirements.
For the remainder of 2021, advertisers can continue to rely on third-party audiences as Chrome still allows third party cookies. However, advertisers should prepare for the upcoming changes by working with their agencies, tech partners, and data providers to understand where their audience data is currently sourced from. They should also explore what plans they are making to ensure efficient audience targeting in the future with an emphasis on identity resolution and reliance on offline, people-based B2C data providers (like Data Axle) that are positioned to continue to provide accurate data for the growing share of the internet with an emphasis on requiring user authentication and thus transacting directly with social platforms and publishers with hashed emails, for example.
Advertisers should look for our two things:
Identity Resolution – how does your data provider link different data attributes/activity to the same consumer today and how will that change when third party cookies go away? Not all third-party data providers will have their own digital ID resolution technology, but they should at least be able to help you understand which partner(s) they are working with for digital audience fulfillment, today and in the future. If you’re a digital advertiser, it’s a good time to work with your agency to reach out to key third-party data providers directly to help ensure data can inform your 2021 campaigns. The third-party cookie will be gone by 2023, so fostering these relationships now, before Google “turns off the lights” will give you enough time to test and refine new audiences and strategies.
Offline, PII data sources – offline sources will weather this change effectively as they can be used to access authenticated and consumer platforms (such as Amazon, Walmart, Target) /and social platforms directly. The internet is evolving towards more walled-garden media environments that can onboard PII-based prospecting audiences directly, so having a third-party data provider whose data is not currently informed by third-party cookies and who has access to hashed emails, for example, will ensure your audience targeting strategy is positioned well for the upcoming changes.
Besides shoring up their first-party data strategy advertisers should focus on identity resolution throughout their Adtech stack to ensure there’s a plan for continued success in direct response acquisition campaigns, for example.
That said, the ecosystem is looking to both publishers AND advertisers to drive emerging tech adoption. Advertiser demand will ultimately influence the shape the internet takes. We encourage advertisers to continue to advocate for privacy-compliant, transparent targeting and measurement from all of their partners – Google included. Advertisers are collectively under-estimating their own power to influence these changes. Ultimately, your ability to invest in digital media will depend on the new ecosystem’s ability to perform, so consider being proactive with your digital needs to ensure your voice is being heard.