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Let the (third-party) cookie crumble

It's time to move beyond third-party cookies

In June, Google announced it was delaying its highly-anticipated deprecation of the third-party cookie until mid-2023. While many marketers may think they can press pause on finding a solution, now is not the time to wait. It’s the time to act.

In fact, brands and agencies can test and run cookie-less campaigns today and open up new opportunities to connect with key audiences. With mounting pressure from consumers, privacy campaigners, and regulators – and the opportunity for a few giant tech companies to capitalize on the change – the shift away from the third-party cookie still looms large. What you have to ask yourself is, will you carry on as normal and then resume fretting about this change in 15 months’ time? Or will you start preparing for the cookie-less future today?

It’s certainly true that a lot could happen between now and 2023. But it’s highly unlikely that a replacement technology is going to pop into existence fully-formed and ready to take over all the heavy lifting involved in measuring audiences, planning campaigns, valuing ad impressions, and enabling dynamic creative optimization, frequency capping, campaign optimization, and attribution.

There are many contenders touted to help fulfill these essential advertising duties once the third-party cookie is no more. Will it be first-party data, email-based deterministic identifiers, cohorts, probabilistic models, data clean rooms, or contextual? Yes, it will be all of those and more.

There won’t be a one-size-fits-all answer here. The deprecation of the third-party cookie has made clear the inherent fragility in relying on just one approach. Besides, no one approach is likely to be able to match the third-party cookie in all aspects of operation, at least not without many more years of innovation and iteration.

Dealing with the inherent complexity of this shift will require better use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology to effectively weave together and interpret a combination of different approaches to support the critical tasks of audience planning, campaign activation, and measurement.

For brands, the implications go well beyond digital advertising alone. As first-party data becomes a key currency of the future, brands will have to think hard about their customer experience and approach to customer relationship management (CRM). It’s going to require a team effort, as these decisions will bleed down cross-functionally to shape brand and marketing strategy, data strategy, technology investment, compliance, and corporate partnerships.

For agencies, their future will have to be more data-driven as well. Besides bolstering their own data analysis capabilities, they have a critical role to play in helping clients navigate the complexity of interpreting audience and campaign insights to enhance digital advertising in this new frontier.

Testing times

The good news is that Google’s announcement to delay the cookie deprecation has created the perfect testing ground for those willing to seize the moment.

Already today, cookie-less environments abound, most notably in Safari and Firefox. This means that audiences representing as much as one-third of all internet activity exist without third-party cookies to inform marketing strategy, activation, and measurement. However, new solutions are now illuminating this less accessible part of the web by enabling brands and agencies to test and run cookie-less campaigns – right now.

This is a world of untapped opportunity for marketers. By going cookie-less before the mad dash that will play out in 2023, you can enjoy less competition and test your strategy in a cost-effective manner. The lessons learned will inform the rethinking of not just your marketing, but of the role of data across the entire customer journey and the personalized experiences that tomorrow can bring.

Pick the right tool for the job

At Quantcast, we believe that the key to the cookie-less future lies in embracing the plurality of approaches for a sophisticated and holistic view of the internet. Without third-party cookies, the primary mechanism used to interpret and connect cross-site signals will no longer be an option. Therefore, new approaches must interpret and combine multiple data signals, to fully leverage the information available across all of them.

This is where AI comes in. Ara, our AI and machine learning engine, can process a multitude of signals and use advanced statistical techniques to combine them and interpret the patterns of online audiences. For example, using advances in contextual analysis, it is able to organize the open internet into a TopicMap, a multi-dimensional analysis of content by topics and interests, to support the planning of custom audiences based on browsing behavior, interest, and intent. By stitching together rich and wide-ranging signals, Ara helps determine the relevance of an ad impression, conduct optimized evaluation, pricing, and bidding, and orchestrate campaigns to deliver superior business results.

With the Quantcast Platform, you can compare campaigns run in environments with and without third-party cookies, just by ticking a box. The platform operates on one of the world’s largest unique real-time data sets, delivering intelligent audience insights, advertising performance, and results at scale. This allows you to unearth the insights you need to master the transition, while reaching untapped audiences. Remember, the clock to 2023 is ticking.

Change means opportunity – so seize it

The demise of the third-party cookie has been greeted in apocalyptic terms – and with corresponding apprehension – by many. It’s certainly bringing change to digital advertising and forcing the industry to rethink the status quo. But, with change comes undeniable opportunity.

As an industry, we now have an opportunity to build a better approach to personalization that delivers outcomes for advertisers and publishers alike. So, let the cookie crumble. It’s time to embrace innovation and enter the next chapter of advertising on the open internet.

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