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Collaboration and experimentation are key to building a privacy-first online advertising ecosystem

All three panelists agreed that collaboration will be vital across the entire industry, as well as in individual businesses

The future of the internet is privacy-first. And making that work for everyone – users, advertisers and publishers – is going to take experimentation and collaboration.

That emerged as the key theme of the webinar ‘How advertisers and publishers can thrive in the identifier-free future’, hosted by The Drum and Nano Interactive. The session brought together Tina Lakhani, head of adtech, IAB UK; El Kanagavel, managing director of performance technology, Dentsu; and Carl White, chief executive and co-founder, Nano Interactive. They discussed the forces behind Google’s decision to degrade the third-party cookie in its Chrome browser, the replacement approaches that are emerging, and the challenges the online advertising industry faces in delivering the environment users want and advertisers need.

To watch the full webinar ‘How advertisers and publishers can thrive in the identifier-free future’, click here.

The key takeaways from the event were:

  • The future will involve stitching together some or all of the remaining and emerging targeting technologies – first-party cookies, anonymized first-party identifiers, cohorts and contextual targeting – to address the needs of different brands, contexts and audience types.

  • The demise of the third-party cookie is an opportunity to build something better.

  • Resolving the issues around measurement is crucial and will only happen if the industry works together.

  • Brands and publishers need to adopt a ‘test and learn’ mindset to find what works for them.

Three-way split

The IAB’s Lakhani described the future internet as being divided into three parts, each requiring a different approach to targeting.

“There are going to be environments where you have first-party data, where your audience is completely identifiable and completely addressable in the same way as it is with cookies. And all the capabilities that we’ve had with cookies will continue within those environments,” she said.

“Then there’s going to be the complete opposite; environments where the consumer is completely anonymous. In those cases, you’re going to have to use solutions like contextual targeting. And then there’ll be areas in the middle where there is some level of transparency on the consumer, but maybe more on a group level, and in those cases we can look at solutions such as cohorts. So ultimately advertisers have to be looking at a portfolio of solutions.”

Lakhani also pointed out that for some time audiences that weren’t addressable were seen as not being valuable. The rise of sophisticated contextual targeting, she said, stands that idea on its head.

White discussed this in more detail.

“We look at it from a perspective of live versus historical data. Getting scale and addressability, when you’re not identifying an individual user in any way, becomes a question of how quickly you can identify the sentiment or the tone of the online environment the person is in,” he said.

“Advances in machine learning and AI open up a whole new area there. Then we want as much live information as we can get, for example what someone may have searched for, in order to understand what mood they’re likely to be in and what their sentiment is against that particular topic category. And once you’re able to do that, addressability becomes possible.”

Build back better

All three panelists stressed that, although the third-party cookie has been the cornerstone of online advertising for 27 years, it has never been a perfect solution. Dentsu’s Kanagavel noted that advertisers are seeing the current situation as an opportunity to rethink their approach.

“There’s a general recognition that there’s been an over-focus on very short-term KPIs, because of the perceived precision of cookie-based measurement,” he said. “Now there’s an opportunity to re-evaluate what we’re trying to drive from different media channels, and what the right KPIs are. The solutions that are emerging are really effective, and there is a path forward from a measurement perspective, although it requires quite a lot of collaboration across the business.”

Let’s work together

All three agreed that collaboration will be vital across the entire industry, as well as in individual businesses.

Kanagavel summed it up: “Adopting a test-and-learn culture is a big shift, and it’s a difficult one sometimes for organizations to make. The key to it is breaking down the silos, working with legal teams, marketing teams, customer teams, technology teams in your organization, and then with external partners, as where you need them, for data sharing. Being able to do all of that right is really tough. But the brands or publishers that do it well will have a huge competitive advantage available to them.”

To read more about the issues surrounding the privacy-first internet, The Drum/Nano Interactive report ‘Without a trace: the future of online advertising without identifiers’ can be downloaded here.

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