Modern Marketing Adtech Data & Privacy

Don’t try to replace the third-party cookie – look to the identifier-free future

By Michael Nutley | Writer for The Drum

August 11, 2021 | 6 min read

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When Google stops Chrome from accepting third-party cookies next year, only one browser in ten worldwide will be able to carry out the ad targeting we currently take for granted.

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Is it possible to deliver the relevant, timely advertising consumers say they want without the use of individual identifiers?

But as a new whitepaper from The Drum and Nano Interactive, The Future Of Online Targeting Beyond Identifiers, points out, the elimination of the third-party cookie is only part of the story. Consumers don’t care about the technologies used to track them, they just don’t want to be tracked. As IAB UK head of adtech Tina Lakhani says in the whitepaper: “Tracking used to be the default, and privacy was optional. We’re now moving towards a world where privacy is the default and tracking is optional.”

So is it possible to deliver the relevant, timely advertising consumers say they want – and that supports the free online content we’ve all grown used to – without the use of individual identifiers? Nano thinks it is. The company argues that modern contextual targeting, which uses live consumer signals such as search terms and AI-powered analysis of page content, including sentiment and semantic meaning, can deliver hyper targeted advertising while maintaining individuals’ privacy and anonymity.

Time is running out

Despite the short reprieve, the demise of the cookie is still a pressing issue. Google’s move has advertisers, publishers and ad tech companies scrambling to find replacement approaches. According to IAB Europe research at the end of last year, half of industry professionals felt it was critically important to find a replacement for the third-party cookie, and just over a quarter (28%) felt they were either “very” or “quite” prepared for the post-cookie world.

At the same time, the trend in regulation is towards still-stricter controls. For example, Canada’s Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA), introduced last November, states that de-identified information – personal information with direct identifiers removed – must be protected, and cannot be used without the individual’s consent except in certain circumstances. This approach could have serious consequences for user-enabled identification based on first-party data.

The identifier-free opportunity

These changes also create opportunities. There is evidence consumers are more curious and more attentive when browsing the open web than when they’re within the big player’s walled gardens, making the ability to target them there even more valuable. Identifier-free targeting could also be more efficient. Studies show that by removing data collection and its associated costs from the equation, identifier-free targeting could deliver similar scale to the cookie-based approach, in advertiser-friendly environments, for a reduced investment while not alienating customers.

The Future Of Online Targeting Beyond Identifiers discusses:

  • the move to a world of ‘privacy by default’;
  • the upsurge in regulation;
  • pros and cons of the solutions in development: first-party data/user-enabled identification; cohorts/interest-based targeting at a group level; contextual targeting;
  • how identifier-free targeting works, and the benefits it offers;
  • the importance to the business of being “privacy-first”.

To read The Future Of Online Targeting Beyond Identifiers whitepaper in full, fill in the form below:

Modern Marketing Adtech Data & Privacy

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