ClickZ: Five things to ask when seeking alternatives in a cookie-less world

Written by Ajit Thupil, published in ClickZ on May 29, 2020

A new era for digital advertising is upon us, as a post-third party cookie world is on the horizon.

With Google’s much discussed plans to phase out the third-party cookie within the next two years, the industry will see fundamental changes to the way marketers connect to consumers today.

It will certainly impact the digital advertising and marketing industries, where over the last 25 years, third-party cookies have been the mainstay across many key ad tech and martech applications.

Although there are alternative IDs in the ecosystem (Mobile Ad IDs, CTV IDs, etc.), there is no alternative to the cookie in the web/browser space, and currently nothing in the open marketplace that matches its scale. But in the very near future, alternatives need to be established.

As these solutions evolve, it’s important for marketers and publishers seeking an alternative to consider the following five key questions to ask potential solution providers.

1) Is it privacy safe?

As new compliance requirements have emerged, businesses have continued to develop better data privacy processes and solutions.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) indicate that the requirements for protecting user data and providing consumers choice will continue to evolve and grow.

So, when seeking an alternative to the third-party cookie, ask the following questions: What went into the creation of these IDs? Did it involve fingerprinting? Are there clear mechanisms to collect consumer consent/preferences, including the ability to opt-out?

2) Does it have scale?

Solution providers may claim that IDs like hashed emails, telephone numbers and login IDs will become the norm and possibly the next currency for targeted messaging.

Although these identifiers could very well become viable contenders in the third-party cookie-less space, the question is whether they will in fact have the scale to match the cookie – as well meet the need for a solution that works across global markets, specifically in developing centers in APAC, EMEA and LATAM.

Currently, they suffer from limited coverage and it’s still uncertain how many people would actively contribute a non-resettable identifier like an email address or a login ID to access content. Only time will tell.

3) Is it fully independent from third-party cookies?

Since Google’s announcement, we have seen solution vendors try to explain browser-based technologies that are cookie-less. But when taking a look under the hood, these solutions may still somehow be mapped to third-party cookies.

When shopping for different solutions, check to see if they really do exclude the cookie from their proposed offering.

For example, do they still need a third party cookie to keep any of these identifiers tied together? Are third-party cookies in any way driving a solution’s scale?

Proactively inquiring about the make-up of solutions only helps insure your resource and budgetary investments for the long term.

4) Will it work as a neutral ID within the ecosystem?

Be wary of potential vendors claiming to provide the “only solution out there” as an alternative to third-party cookies. For a solution to have longevity, adoption and fidelity, neutrality is a key attribute.

Given the sophistication of the ecosystem, any solution that aims to become the single and sole currency for transaction and measurement will be dismissed.

The industry isn’t looking to become solely dependent on a single solution vendor who can strong arm players across the ecosystem or become a single point of failure.

That said, winning solutions will not come from one single player but from a group of players across the ecosystem: buy-side, sell-side, tech platforms, data partners and measurement solution providers.

Make sure to sign on with vendors that take a collaborative approach to finding solutions that benefit the industry as a whole.

5) Will it test the passage of time?

Solutions that are designed as a workaround in an attempt to get through any loop holes left by the browsers will put the longevity of these solutions at risk. Solution vendors typically use signals (that are currently permitted by browsers) to create a fingerprint that they use to link data together.

Avoid developing a partnership with vendors looking for shortcuts for the sake of generating more income. While there may not be any repercussions in the short-term, they will certainly face challenges in the long-term.

This will result in the start of a cat and mouse game between the solution provider and browser manufacturer, putting continuity at risk, as browsers will eventually wise up and close those gaps.

While we are only at the beginning of a two-year journey, a growing list of vendors will start working feverishly to come up with solutions that replace the third-party cookie.

Since it is unlikely that there will be a single solution to satisfy all of the ecosystem’s needs, there will be a need for a player to stitch these solutions together.

Closing thoughts

As more information becomes available, and there will be a number of unknowns along the way, publishers and marketers will still be able to identify alternative sources to target and serve ads to consumers.

By utilizing a cross-device graph, stakeholders across the industry have the ability to tap into a variety of cookie-less digital identifiers to service their objectives.

What will ultimately set them up for success is truly knowing what the next vendor has to offer as an alternative. And it all starts with asking the right questions.



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