Are you ready for life beyond the cookie?

Quantcast shares global best practices on prepping for the challenges and brand opportunities in a cookieless world.

post-cookie-1By Laura Main, Sales Director, Quantcast

The internet’s original sin was convincing users that content is free, when it’s actually built on an ad-funded economic model which relies on a system fueled by third-party cookies. The advertising technology produced to support this system has undergone many shifts – and now must quickly evolve again to survive.

When Google announced Chrome will stop supporting third-party cookies in 2022, it wasn’t expected; but they left time for the trillion-dollar industry to prepare.

It’s part of a continuing shift towards consumer transparency and control. New identity solutions paired with tried and tested tech like probabilistic audience modeling and contextual relevance will form the building blocks of tomorrow’s online experience.

Why the urgency?

Broadly, there are two big threats to third-party cookies. The first is user trust. We have not been transparent as an industry about what we are using people’s data for and the value which enables them to have access to content.

This triggered regulation, led by the 2016 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) EU legislation that makes it simpler for people to control how companies use their personal details.

The second threat is big tech. Apple made the decision to not allow third-party cookies and Google started the countdown clock by establishing a cookie retirement timeline of two years.

So why is everyone panicking now? The first reason is that the adtech lumascape is glued together by third-party cookies. Agreeing on what identifier to use for browsers for various players is all powered by third-party cookies.

So we have to rethink the framework. The goal of ad tech is to make it more efficient, more effective over time, for all participants: the publishers, advertisers and web users.

How to measure

Before you think about how to target in a post-cookie era, first ask the question, how are we going to measure.

Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) is the best proxy for how the internet will look in a few years. If you’re a marketer, you know that the way we measure today no longer works for Safari.

Advertisers often unknowingly shift spend away from ITP and Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) protected devices as well as fight over a smaller fraction of the audience. The biggest predictor of whether someone is in your segment is how old the cookie is, but this is hindered when third-party cookies aren’t available.

That said, if you solve for ITP, you will likely also solve for Google Chrome.

Other alternatives to third-party cookies include the Facebook model, where everyone logs in and has a permanent identifier that details their preferences. Although it’s not a likely solution across the board, the adoption of registration walls and consent walls is growing.

How to prepare for the post-cookie world

Today, the ad tech lumascape is like a game of telephone. At every junction you lose information. You also lose fidelity and about 60% of the people on your list. Most businesses are going to have to build a direct relationship with their customers, which many have been trying to do for years.

Fundamentally, marketers need to connect with publishers and end web users in a much more sustainable fashion that’s less segmented. When talking about going direct, it’s important for companies to work together in areas to tie identification, data, activation and measurement together as closely as possible. When you decouple these, you become blind.

Since the advent of GDPR, Quantcast started to establish a relationship with web users, partnering with the IAB and partners across Europe to help develop the Transparency and Consent Framework, which is a mechanism by which publishers and advertisers can remain regulatory compliant. It now supports CCPA and other regulations around the world. As GDPR requires affirmative action from web users, Quantcast Choice is a consent management platform that handles that.

Having a relationship where you’re transparent about what data is being used (letting users opt out and be forgotten) is key to making sure the economic system caters to the end web user.

These mechanisms of collecting consent and information to build a relationship over time, and in a respectful way, is something all brands and publishers need to lean into.

In summary, the best way to prepare for a post-third party cookie world right now is to:

  • Focus on measurement (before you think about targeting).
  • Own your data and consumer relationships and think about it in human terms. Think about how you can be transparent about what data is being used and establish a relationship that’s as frictionless as possible.
  • Try to go direct. When you connect your data with someone else’s, try to avoid the game of telephone. If you can directly connect your understanding of a customer with measurement, attribution and activation, that becomes really powerful.

Quantcast is an audience intelligence and measurement company headquartered in San Francisco. Combining machine learning, a privacy-by-design approach, and live data drawn from more than 100 million online destinations, Quantcast provides software, information and advertising services for marketers, publishers and advertising agencies worldwide.