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Online Identity in a World of Cookieless Browsers

  • 6 min read

With Google having announced plans to phase out support for third-party cookies in Chrome within the next two years, there is a conversation in the market around how marketers and the adtech industry can find ways to identify and connect with customers.

LiveRamp recently hosted an industry panel session, in collaboration with Which-50 to discuss online identity in a cookieless world. Here’s what they have to say:


Browser Cookies – An Imperfect Tracking Mechanism

As the adtech industry shifts and changes with the deprecation of third-party cookies, we’re beginning a new era of engagement for individuals, publishers, and marketers. Industry-wide conversion to this new infrastructure is underway and this transformation promises a better online experience for all participants.

Ben Campbell, Director of Advertising & Data Products, Nine says, “Cookies and the changes that Google are making have been in the headlines because Chrome accounts for so much web traffic but, this is not a new thing. Safari phased out tracking across Safari’s browser about two years ago, and Firefox have done the same. Google is following suit here.”

“Cookies have been an imperfect tracking mechanism for some time. They are device-level identifiers not personal-level identifiers. They do not work in all environments such as mobile apps, connected TVs. They are not persistent in tracking the true identity of the consumer, so they have been an imperfect tracking tool for some time. And with browsers phasing out cookie tracking then that is going to be the death bed there,” says Campbell.

However, the industry has been working towards an open and scaled identity solution over the past few years to build the infrastructure for the ecosystem to move away from third-party cookies.

Campbell added, “In terms of technical developments, online identity has been really growing rapidly. At Nine, we’ve rolled out single sign-on across Nine back in 2016 and have continued to build up a pretty large scaled data set off the back of that. And that is built around using the email as the personal identifier and stitching the different devices to a user’s profile. We’ve now unified all the data across the metro mastheads and Domain after the merger with Fairfax. So, we’ve built out that large addressable data set and that is something that we see as a critical thing that we need to invest in.”

“LiveRamp’s open and neutral Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS) allows brands, agencies, and publishers to operate in a post-cookie world – bridging publishers’ first-party identity with brands’ first-party data. This solution enables marketers to buy inventory in a privacy-first manner, without the need for third-party cookies. We see this decision as an opportunity for the ecosystem to upgrade beyond the cookie and accelerate the global adoption of cookieless solutions,” says Travis Clinger, LiveRamp’s VP for Global Strategy and Partnerships.

According to Campbell, “Brands are doing the same with building out their addressable data sets and certainly the marketing tech providers are doing the same with Adobe launching their customer data platforms last month and Salesforce launching theirs soon. So, there’s a lot of opportunities in the sense that a proper addressable data set brings capabilities that cookies don’t. The difficult part is getting to that scale which marketers are previously used to with third party cookies.”

As brands, publishers, and agencies work towards building out their first-party datasets, technologies like LiveRamp Safe Haven offers a neutral and privacy-safe environment to foster data collaboration.


Navigating Through Privacy Regulations in a Cookieless World

The influx of privacy regulations and their attendant transparency is a precursor to changes in the way we identify and track consumers online, with the removal of third-party cookies not coming as a too much of a surprise to the industry. The cookieless future will reinforce the need for publishers to have a more transparent dialogue with their readers and explain the need for identity and the ability to personalise ads for the consumer in exchange for free content with proper regulations in place.

Clinger states, “Over the years, we’ve observed a trend where consumers didn’t understand how their data was being used, so the governments have tried to react. In return, the adtech and martech industries have tried to meet the regulation adoptions as well. When marketers have a common people-based link that is de-identified in a privacy safe way, it is a lot easier to meet these regulations and a lot easier to adhere to customer consent.”

Adele Wieser, APAC Regional Managing Director APAC, Index Exchange adds, “It’s been fascinating to watch regulations unfold over the last couple of years – how they are shifting, and there’s more changes that are coming. We are seeing more changes in different markets from an Asia Pacific perspective.”

“Regulations help enforce that trust that has been lacking in the ecosystem,” Wieser elaborates. “It’s bringing consumers’ interests to the forefront and being kept top of mind. I dare say that as we continue there will be further evolutions to what those policies look like and how they are implemented, but as a technology business, we are taking all the steps necessary to support these changes as they come about based on the market demands.”

“If we look at the biggest beneficiaries of GDPR, it’s Google and Facebook. It has become easy for them to gain customer consent, as they communicate the value exchange well and the consumer is willing to provide their login details in return for great content. The question the industry should ask ourselves is how do we build an ecosystem that is good enough that we do not require any more regulations?”, comments Clinger.


Opportunities in a Cookieless World

A healthy and open ecosystem, and one that is not dependent upon a few large walled gardens, will benefit the adtech industry and the consumer alike. Understanding and supporting this, the cookieless future presents the ecosystem with an incredible opportunity to build a better system for personalising and measuring ads. Clinger says, “LiveRamp is excited for the future and looking forward to continuing to work with the ecosystem to move beyond the cookie.”

Gemma Beeley, Sydney Head of Digital, UM Australia shares, “Another interesting thing we’re seeing is that the structure of agencies and client teams are really changing. More frequently, we are now seeing clients embedded in media and marketing teams with the word ‘data’ in their designations. We are replicating that in our agency model as well; we’ve got teams of data analysts and tech partners and jobs that didn’t exist five or six years ago. If I think about the conversations that I’m having with my clients, they have evolved so much from basic media planning and into almost tech advisory roles, opening up the opportunity to be a counsel for our clients outside of the traditional media agency remit.”

Beeley adds, “The other opportunity that emerges from third-party cookies depletion is the creation of a people-based identity graph that provide a unified view of a consumer across the web. Currently walled gardens use their own unique identifiers, so understanding how these platforms can work together to create a common currency for the open web is a complex, but exciting challenge for our industry. This would be a huge step forward in breaking down the barriers between online and offline measurement as the industry can begin to work towards identifying the user rather than the cookie using same currency across all channels. That is something we should be investing resources into.”

According to Krish Raja, Director Product & Platform Strategy, Amobee, “There’s a lot of changes happening – data regulations coming, removal of third-party cookies etc. There are also a lot of changes that are happening in the data sphere that helps agencies and brands measure ROI all the way back to the planning stages. It is looking at the way people use, for example in our instance, programmatic, and how traders physically manage marketing campaigns. How do you bring it all together and combine it?”

Raja adds, “A lot of the way that data has been used and cookies has been used is like a test and learn mentality based on cost. You don’t really have a lot else to judge on. I think that that is going to change in the planning stage with different types of data. Anyone who has ever bought a bottle of vodka based on cost knows that it is going to give you a kick in the head the next day. Cost is not the be all and end all of how to buy and measure what you are buying. Where we’re moving to will give agencies more currencies and more lenses on how to plan for quality and how to actually buy quality data.”

Learn how LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS) allows you to participate in the Trusted Ecosystem by enabling a two-way value exchange.