The future of identity in cookieless advertising

Published: August 15, 2023 by Experian Marketing Services

The next era of identity is here

The cookieless future is here, and it’s time to start thinking about how you will adapt your strategies to this new reality. In a cookieless world, you will need to find new ways to identify and track users across devices. This will require reliance on first-party data, contextual advertising, and alternative identifiers that respect user privacy.

To shed light on this topic, we hosted a panel discussion at Cannes, featuring industry leaders from Cint, Direct Digital Holdings, the IAB, MiQ, Tatari, and Experian.

Watch the recording of our Cannes panel, "What does the future of identity hold?"

In this blog post, we’ll explore the future of identity in cookieless advertising. We’ll discuss the challenges and opportunities that this new era presents, and we’ll offer our tips for how to stay ahead of the curve.

How cookieless advertising is evolving

Programmatic advertising is experiencing multiple changes. Let’s dive into three key things you should know.

Cookie deprecation

One significant change is cookie deprecation, which has implications for tracking and targeting. Additionally, understanding the concept of Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS) is becoming increasingly crucial.

The demand and supply-side are coming closer together

Demand-side platforms (DSPs) and supply-side platforms (SSPs) have traditionally been seen as two separate entities. DSPs are used by advertisers to buy ad space, while SSPs are used by publishers to sell ad space. However, in recent years, there has been a trend toward the two sides coming closer together.

This is due to three key factors:

The rise of header bidding

Header bidding is a process where publishers sell their ad space to multiple buyers in a single auction. This allows publishers to get the best possible price for their ad space, and it also allows advertisers to target their ads more effectively.

Cookie deprecation

As third-party cookies are phased out, advertisers need to find new ways to track users, and they are turning to SSPs for help. SSPs can provide advertisers with data about users, such as their demographics and interests. This data can be used to target ads more effectively.

The increasing importance of data

Advertisers are increasingly looking for ways to target their ads more effectively, and they need data to do this. SSPs have access to a wealth of user data, and they’re willing to share this data with advertisers. This is helping to bridge the gap between the two sides.

The trend toward the demand-side and supply-side coming closer together is good news for advertisers and publishers. It means that they can work together to deliver more relevant ads to their users.

Measuring and tracking diverse types of media

The media measurement landscape is rapidly evolving to accommodate new types of media, such as digital out-of-home (DOOH). With ad inventory expanding comes the challenge of establishing identities and connecting them with what advertisers and agencies want to track.

Measurement providers are now being asked to accurately capture instances when individuals are exposed to advertisements at a bus stop in New York City, for example, and tracking their journey and purchase decisions, such as buying a Pepsi.

To navigate cookieless advertising and measurement, we must prioritize building a strong foundational identity framework.

What you should focus on in a cookieless advertising era

In a cookieless advertising era, you will need to focus on two key things: frequency capping and authentic identity.

Frequency capping

Frequency capping is a practice of limiting the number of times an ad is shown to a user. This is important in cookieless advertising because it helps to prevent users from being bombarded with ads. It also helps to ensure that ads are more effective, as users are less likely to ignore or click on ads that they have seen too many times.

Frequency capping is often overhyped and yet overlooked. Instead of solely focusing on frequency, consider approaching it from an identity perspective. One solution could be to achieve a perfect balance between reaching a wider audience and avoiding excessive repetition. By increasing reach in every programmatic buy, you naturally mitigate frequency control concerns.

Authentic identity

The need for authentic identities in a digital and programmatic ecosystem is undeniable. While we explore ways to connect cookies, mobile ads, and other elements, it’s crucial to remember who we are as real individuals. By using anonymized personal identifying information (PII) as a foundation, we can derive insights about households and individuals and set effective frequency caps across different channels.

Don’t solely focus on devices and behaviors in your cookieless advertising strategy and remember the true value of people and their identities.

What’s next for cookieless advertising?

The deprecation of third-party cookies is a major challenge for the digital advertising industry. Advertisers will need to find new ways to track users and target their ads.

Here are three specific trends that we can expect to see in cookieless advertising.

First-party data is moving in-house

Many major media companies, equipped with valuable identifier and first-party data, are choosing to bring it in-house. They are focused on using their data internally rather than sharing it externally.

“Many larger media companies are opting to bring their identifier and first-party data in-house, creating more walled gardens. It seems that companies are prioritizing data control within their own walls instead of sharing it externally.”

laura manning, svp, measurement, cint

Fragmentation will continue

The number of identifiers used to track people online is growing rapidly. In an average household, over a 60-day period, there are 22 different identifiers present. This number is only going to increase as we move away from cookies and toward other identifiers.

This fragmentation makes it difficult to track people accurately and deliver targeted advertising. This means that we need new identity solutions that can help make sense of these new identifiers and provide a more accurate view of people.

A portfolio of solutions will address signal loss

Advertisers are taking a variety of approaches to cookieless advertising. A few of the solutions include:

  • Working with alternative IDs.This refers to using alternative identifiers to cookies, such as mobile device IDs or email addresses. These identifiers can be used to track people across different websites and devices, even without cookies.
  • Working with data index at a geo level. This refers to using data from a third-party provider to get a better understanding of people’s location. This information can be used to target ads more effectively.
  • Working with publisher first-party data that’s been aggregated to a cohort level. This refers to using data that is collected directly from publishers, such as website traffic data or purchase history. This data can be used to create more personalized ads.
  • Working with contextual solutions. This refers to using contextual data, such as the content of a website or the weather, to target ads. This can help to ensure that ads are relevant to the user’s interests.

“Cookie deprecation is often exaggerated, and alternate solutions are already emerging. As data moves closer to publishers and first-party data gains prominence, the industry will adapt to the changes.”

mark walker, ceo, direct digital holdings

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for cookies, and you will need to be flexible and adopt a variety of different approaches.

How will these solutions work together?

You can take a waterfall approach to cookieless advertising. A waterfall approach is a process where advertisers bid on ad impressions in sequential order. The first advertiser to meet the minimum bid price wins the impression.

In the context of cookieless advertising, a waterfall approach can be used to prioritize different targeting signals. For example, you might start by bidding on impressions that have a Ramp ID, then move on to impressions that have a geo-contextual signal, and finally bid on impressions that have no signal at all.

This is a flexible approach that can be adapted to different needs and budgets.

Watch our Cannes panel for more on cookieless advertising

Cannes Lions 2023 panelists: What does the future of identity hold?

We hosted a panel in Cannes that covered the future of identity in cookieless advertising. Check out the full recording below to hear what leaders from Cint, Direct Digital Holdings, the IAB, MiQ, Tatari, and Experian had to say.

Check out more Cannes content:

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