Rising above the crumbs: How publishers can thrive in a cookie-free world

The digital advertising industry is at a pivotal crossroads as Google finally bids goodbye to cookies. While much attention has been focused on the repercussions of cookie deprecation for audience targeting, less has been discussed about the impact on publishers who have long hosted cookies on their sites. 

Ashton De Santis, director of inventory partnerships, ANZ at The Trade Desk explains how publishers can thrive in a cookie-free world.

With estimates suggesting that as much as 75 percent of journalism’s funding comes from advertising, the stakes are high for publishers. And if advertisers suddenly lose the ability to understand who is reading the news, the value of ads will nosedive, resulting in less funding for our most trusted news.

But let’s be clear – cookies were never intended to deliver advanced digital advertising tracking. They only work in browser environments and are absent from the fastest-growing parts of the internet. In the last few years, new online environments have gained huge traction as Aussies pivoted from traditional TV and radio to streaming TV and digital audio.

It’s in these emerging digital channels where a lot of the groundwork for designing these new identity frameworks has taken place. Where authenticated, logged-in audiences are available, advertisers are placing an increased premium as they have a clear sense of who they are reaching. For example, a shared feature of all streaming services is the log-in process, which sees users create online accounts in exchange for video content. Whether the service requires a subscription fee or not, the login process is consistent.

As a result, advertisers have flocked to streaming services where ample first-party data is now available for more precise audience targeting and segmentation. This authentication process has thus created a new, premium identity fabric of the internet.

For publishers, the demise of cookies presents a significant opportunity to rethink their digital wardrobe, or rather, their approach to internet authentication in a more privacy-conscious way. Importantly, this is the time to redefine the way they engage with their audience, mirroring the adaptability shown by their counterparts in emerging platforms like streaming TV and digital audio.

Thanks to the advancements within these platforms, publishers now have access to an array of identity solutions. They are by no means restricted to relying solely on Google’s Privacy Sandbox as a cookie replacement.

To make this shift, publishers must deploy new, consumer-friendly, lightweight single-sign-on authentication solutions such as OpenPass. Such login prompts don’t have to deter a user: They can show up after a certain amount of time on a page, or after the second or third page. But even a one-time engagement can help a publisher build their strategy, allowing for personalised, high-value advertising on its media properties.

In doing so, publishers can gain vital information about their users. This first-party data should be the lifeblood of any publisher, and it is this data that publishers can share with advertisers in a privacy-conscious way to preserve the value of their advertising impressions.

Next, publishers can allow advertisers to activate modern identity solutions, such as Unified ID 2.0 (UID2), so advertisers can find relevant audiences across the open internet. The movement has already started with UID2 being activated by key Aussie publishers including WA Newspapers – part of Seven West Media, Real Estate Australia, Gumtree and ACM.

Luxury Escapes is one of the many brands in Australia that has leveraged UID2 to enhance its targeting strategies. By activating UID2 on their first-party data, Luxury Escapes was able to identify a seed audience to facilitate lookalike targeting. This approach allowed them to direct their advertising to net-new customers who may share similar traits with their existing customers across the open internet. As such, Luxury Escapes saw over 250 percent higher conversion rate (CVR), 4.75 times higher return on ad spend (ROAS), and nearly 80 percent lower cost per action (CPA), compared with targeting using cookies.

The clock is ticking for publishers, but the good news is that solutions exist. It begins with adopting new identity frameworks that arm publishers with vital first-party data and provides advertisers with tailored user insights to deliver relevant ads, while upholding user privacy.

This is the new fabric of the open internet and one that publishers can wear proudly.

Ashton De Santis is director of inventory partnerships, ANZ at The Trade Desk


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