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Beyond crumbling cookies: how first-party IDs are helping marketers unlock value today

By Jakob Bak |

September 30, 2022 | 8 min read

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Despite Google’s recent announcement pushing the cookie deprecation timeline further, the urgency is still there for advertisers and publishers to reach online audiences in a consistent, transparent and privacy-compliant way.

Birds eye view of people walking fast

First-party IDs can help marketers prepare for the post-cookie world and the technology already exists to reach your audience

More than half of all online consumers are in environments that are cookie-free and privacy-first, such as Firefox or Mozilla. The landmark shift to privacy of recent years has created a jungle of fragmented ID solutions and a growing world of first-party identifiers, with competing standards and new players entering the market constantly. Right now, marketers’ problem in this new world of first-party identifiers is reach. No single identifier solution can deliver the scale marketers need.

To bring order to this increasingly complex advertising landscape, we at Adform have built ID Fusion – an agnostic solution that combines publishers’ first-party IDs with advertisers’ customer data to make sense of online users’ identity. Born out of Adform’s over two decades of global experience and our fundamental belief in the need for an open, agnostic attitude to identifiers, ID Fusion sews visibility, trackability and addressability of audiences together in one place, unlocking scale for common use-cases such as frequency capping, audience targeting and reporting.

First-party IDs already deliver tremendous value today – boosting addressability, click rates, viewability and eCPM to lower CPC. And to prove it beyond any doubt, we’ve commissioned PwC to run a detailed, first-of-its-kind report, which analyzed live and past campaigns.

An industry first: PwC report shows first-party IDs outperforming third-party cookies

PwC worked with OMD Norway and Renault to develop and run a real-world campaign using Adform’s ID Fusion technology. As part of their testing and review, PwC also verified data from a previous campaign and Adform case study. The goal was to evaluate the performance of first-party IDs and ID Fusion in a way that would help marketers worldwide prepare to navigate the post-cookie advertising world with confidence and peace of mind. These tests took place between February-May 2022, and the results were revealed at Cannes in June, in the very heart of adland.

669% increase in reach and 161% uplift in performance through first-party IDs and ID Fusion

The PwC study brings reassuring proof for marketers that they have nothing to fear from the so-called ‘death of the cookie’: funneling ad traffic with identifiers through the ID Fusion solution drove a significant 669% increase in the addressable audience, as well as 161% increase in click-through rates, resulting in higher viewability and superior eCPM, and ultimately lowering CPC by 65%.

By using first-party IDs and ID Fusion, the test campaign was able to reach incremental users who could not be engaged using previous targeting methods, on non-cookie environments such as Safari and Firefox, as well as a growing number of Chrome users.

Additionally, only ad traffic with first-party IDs was able to meet daily spend targets across the campaign period and deliver in full.

The first-party ID campaign delivered improved engagement and quality metrics and reduced media inefficiencies by 29%, which lowered frequency from 4.8 to 3.4.

Sharing her thoughts on the test, Lotte Gundersen, digital marketing manager at Renault Norway, said: “ID Fusion has allowed us to reach otherwise un-addressable audiences in cookieless environments. As an advertiser, it is reassuring to know that addressable marketing will continue to be a tool that we can rely on in the future also in cookieless environments, and that we can continue to reach our customers and optimize our advertising efforts in a manner better aligned with the modern consumers’ expectations around privacy.”

Carl-Adam Sjölander, digital director at OMD Norway, added: “Our experience with ID Fusion so far has shown great promise for the future, and we look forward to working with Adform and our publisher partners to bring our clients powerful media activations also after we’ve said a final goodbye to the third-party cookie. ID Fusion promises to be a valuable solution going forward as a flexible and agnostic platform that encourages even closer cooperation with premium publishers to tap into their data in a transparent and privacy-compliant way.”

Premium publishers stand to gain from the deprecation of the third-party cookie, thanks to first-party IDs and the data collection they open up, as publishers can profile all visitors regardless of whether they log in or remain anonymous. The vast majority of people only use two or three websites, where they (from my experience) see 95% of the ads they are exposed to. So first-party IDs become tremendously powerful, and that is why the PwC results are so impressive. Being able to frequency cap on those sites, optimize ad placements, profile and target with powerful audience data benefits both publishers and advertisers.

Identify and address previously ‘hidden’ audiences on Safari and Firefox

In addition to the study of the live OMD Norway and Renault campaign using Adform’s ID Fusion solution, PwC also ran a detailed analysis of Adform’s recent campaign data, reviewing performance of campaigns ran across environments that support first-party IDs, but not third-party cookies – Safari and Firefox.

In the data analyzed by PwC, third-party cookies accounted for 66% of users reached on Chrome inventory and only 4% of users on Safari and Firefox. By comparison, when using first-party IDs through ID Fusion, up to 85% of Safari and Firefox users from selected publishers, previously inaccessible, could be identified and turned into addressable users. As a result, using first-party IDs achieved a higher CTR% than for unaddressable inventory.

Adam Edelshain, director, PwC, said: “PwC’s Marketing and Media team firmly believes that trust and transparency are crucial to the healthy future of the digital advertising ecosystem. By subjecting its ID Fusion solution to independent testing, Adform has continued to demonstrate its commitment to this.”

Of course, we’re delighted to see the PwC independent report confirm that cookieless success is already a current reality. First-party IDs can help pave the way to a cleaner, more transparent and better-performing internet, and the response from agencies and brands has been one of keen interest. At Adform we have a headstart for solving the online ‘identity crisis,’ and a proven model that we believe offers a clear path and vision of how the future can look.

Read the full PwC report on ID Fusion here.

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