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Brands are already out of time on cookies

Brands know the best replacement for third-party cookies is first-party IDs

With cookie-free browsers accounting for nearly half of traffic in multiple markets, brands are out of consideration time – even though Google’s deprecation clock keeps ticking.

Most understand the need for fast action; around 80% are eager to start testing alternatives and believe increasing use of owned, first-party data will bring vital benefits, aside from just futureproofing for Chrome’s ban. But many are moving too slowly, or have totally stalled.

Workable solutions are already available, as illustrated by our First Party Now program and the 93% of UK publishers passing first-party IDs through the bidstream. To fuel ongoing reach across Safari and Firefox, brands must ensure they are able to harness them; making it crucial to pinpoint what is holding them back, and how they can pick up the pace.

Tech supply is not meeting demand

Brands know the best replacement for third-party cookies is first-party IDs. Not only do they have stronger staying power, living for months or years, but they are also gaining popularity as a method of driving transparency – allowing brands to create direct publisher relationships and ensure impressions are traceable and accountable along the supply chain, as well as cutting ad fraud and unexpected fees. There is also growing awareness that server-side first-party cookies offer a more viable and scalable way forward than limited log-in-based IDs.

All of which begs the question: what are brands waiting for? According to our latest study, one answer lies in the fact current technology is not catering for their needs.

Analysis of 1,000 low-level features across ad servers, and demand-side (DSP), data management (DMP) and dynamic creative optimization (DCO) platforms reveals that approximately 60% of daily functions are fueled by third-party cookies. The findings illustrate how deeply tangled they remain in the advertising toolkit; with especially heavy reliance for DMPs and DCOs at 95% and 70%. They also underscore a gulf between what brands want and the abilities needed to enable cookie-free ad delivery and measurement.

First-party horizons are getting broader

On the positive side, innovation is forging ahead in other corners of the digital ecosystem. Further qualitative analysis reveals industry players feel a mass marketing shift is in motion, with all web analytics and content platforms solely using first-party IDs. Those who have rapidly responded to rising privacy restrictions are setting a path for adtech to follow, as well as proving what can be achieved with swift action.

Initiatives helping publishers increase the availability of first-party ID impressions are opening up more opportunities for buyers; including working without third-party cookies, while boosting performance and recovering lost ground in premium environments. Results of initial First Party Now trials demonstrate brands using first-party IDs are seeing positive outcomes for click-through rates (CTRs), scale and efficiency. This includes 60% less wasted spend, 120% uplift in net reach and 2X higher CTRs across Safari and Firefox.

Such advances bring enhanced ability for near and long-term ad effectiveness, but they do have their own issues. Currently, the identity landscape is dominated by a few forces, despite an increasing number of solutions; including 30 focused on first-party IDs. What this means in reality is that choices are limited to Google’s Privacy Sandbox and the Unified ID 2.0, used by The Trade Desk, both of which restrict the scope of campaigns to select pools of inventory; presenting a major adoption barrier for brands.

Adaptability is key on all fronts

Publishers may be ahead of the game, but brands are developing an increasingly clear idea of where they need to go – and how to get there.

Adjusting existing approaches and workflows will be part of that; with extending first-party tagging and revising legacy metrics such as frequency capping high priorities. Interim measures will be key as some publishers are slow to provide first-party data access, making deal IDs a solid option. Brands will also need to explore options for hitting their targeting requirements. For instance, those interested in audiences that can’t be easily sourced via first-party IDs might need to investigate cross-domain data aggregation and lookalike modeling.

Flexibility will be critical for marketers to maintain cross-media reach around the open web, which in turn means they need to embrace tech that supports varied IDs.

Pioneers are striving to fulfil this need by developing centralized systems that allow chief marketers to plug in preferred identifiers, including Adform’s world-first ID Fusion. By forming a bridge between a range of IDs, tools such as these allow brands to capitalize on the targeting, tracking and optimization benefits of every alternative, as well as driving the industry into a new era of agile tech that rolls with changes to data regulation and access, while providing free choice.

Marketers are far from the only contributors to leisurely first-party data activation. Held back by legacy tech, progress has been limited – and understandable concerns around leading ID solutions have not helped. But thanks to the latest wave of inclusive tools, potential for pushing forward is growing. Leveraging tech that can connect first-party identifiers will allow chief marketers to increase their ability and begin their post-cookie journey right now.

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