The coming end of the third-party cookie has some publishers reevaluating their trove of first-party data, and they’re hoping it can lead to closer relationships with advertisers.
The upheaval of a world without third-party cookies – the trackers within internet browsers that underpin all of digital advertising – was top of mind for attendees at the IAB’s three-day Annual Leadership Meeting in California.
“A privacy-first identifier is really important and needed in our industry as a whole,” Stephanie Layser, vice-president of advertising technology and operations at News Corp, said during a panel discussion.
“Because without that we'll continue to play this cat-and-mouse game and it will eventually make it so that we can no longer identify users at all.”
No third-party cookies essentially means there will be an entire ecosystem of walled gardens. Like Google and Facebook, publishers will start looking like end-to-end platforms that house valuable audience data.
Publishers may take a page out of the duopoly’s book (minus the data leakage) and gather the first-party data gleaned from their sites to build identifiers that exist within the publishers' closed ecosystems.
“You store your information in [Facebook] and use their identifiers, but you don't get the user identity back,” said Scott Messer, senior vice-president of media at Leaf Group. “And that's actually a sustainable model, minus the leaking.”
But Facebook and Google have enormous scale, and the latter can still leverage identifiers that Chrome runs through its browser. Publishers, instead, will have to offer insights that go beyond basic audience data.
“We transact through programmatic pipes, but come to publishers, because we can give you the insights and the data,” said Layser.
Messer said presenting buyers with deeper information will be what gets their attention
"Bringing people insights is the key to publishers taking control," said Messer. "Pushing more audience and more data is not the answer."
Publishers will first need to organize their identify graphs and build consistent taxonomies, or definitions of audience segments, in order to put their insights to use. Then they’ll have to successfully combine their direct relationship with consumers with advertisers’ data and campaign objectives.
Chip Schenck, vice-president of data and programmatic solutions at Meredith Corporation, said publishers and advertisers need to start working together to build products that go beyond meeting financial objectives and toward helping the advertiser learn more about the end user.
“Be prepared to redefine what partnership means...,” said Schenck. “Partnership is what do you have and what don't you have, how can I fill the gaps that you have, and what are the things I need that you could help me with, beyond financial remuneration.”
Tighter publisher-advertiser bonds and the absence of third-party cookies could also mean open exchanges are on their way out.
“It's not going to be sustainable in the future,” said Layser.
Read more about the cookieless future here.