By Ian Darby | journalist

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February 3, 2022 | 5 min read

The countdown to 2023, the date of Google’s highly-anticipated deprecation of the third-party cookie, has officially begun. As the industry inches towards this deadline, advertisers need to start exploring solutions that help them navigate this new reality today. Moreover, those who move towards building a viable first-party data strategy and start testing a raft of AI-driven solutions will gain a significant competitive advantage in 2022.

This was one of the key predictions at The Drum Predictions 2022 Festival, according to experts from Quantcast, Future and m/SIX – who agreed they all have a collective responsibility to help drive the best outcomes for brands as they prepare for Google’s removal of the third-party cookie.

Yet, a world without third-party cookies has already been with us for several years; Apple’s Safari started blocking them in 2017, followed by rival Firefox in 2019. Ben Murphy, UK managing director at Quantcast, argued that this puts advertisers in a position of relative strength: “I think the great opportunity for the industry now is to build a better, more privacy-first approach that effectively delivers outcomes for advertisers, whilst respecting consumer privacy.”

The most robust and viable cookieless solutions for 2022 will build on first-party data, cohorts, contextual, and more.

The most robust and viable cookieless solutions for 2022 will build on first-party data, cohorts, contextual, and more.

We’re not starting from scratch, either. It’s something that companies have been looking at for many years, because cookie-less environments already exist.

Stacey Perry, chief digital officer at m/SIX, built on this notion, indicating that the agency and its clients have worked for some time now on solutions beyond the third-party cookie: “We don't believe the end of cookies means the end of targeted advertising. In fact, quite the contrary. We believe it's really a great opportunity to leverage data in new, meaningful ways. And the solutions that are coming to the fore now will help to build close relationships with customers.”

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To build a successful first-party data strategy, it must take into account “the entire data lifecycle; from collection and consent management and storage, right through to activation and measurement”, said Murphy. He outlined how Quantcast has worked in the past 18 months or so on creating first-party platforms for advertisers that enable them to deploy targeted advertising.

This approach comes with a sense of responsibility. Nick Flood, global ad product and revenue operations director of Future, emphasized the importance of advertisers and publishers gaining consumer consent to use data: “It really does put those companies that start to collect consent and permissions into a really strong advantage point, because you're in the relationship with the customer. So, in our case, hundreds of millions of customers a month come into our properties, we control that relationship, and then it's down to us how we wish to activate them.”

The discussion then moved into the area of AI-driven solutions that can help to predict and determine people’s online behaviour. “With the deprecation of the third-party cookie, if you haven't got AI, or if you're not using AI, you're going to really, really struggle to operate in the digital marketing space. And so you have to really start to embrace it,” said Murphy.

Perry developed this theme by raising the point that brands can use AI and machine learning to improve an understanding of customers and fill gaps in their datasets, ultimately leading to richer contextual advertising.

Flood then explained why it’s so important for advertisers to explore cookie-less opportunities right away: “I think the sooner marketers realize that they should be having conversations with ad tech companies, agencies and publishers, the better. They're going to be prepared to make sure that they can continue to spend, because the last thing I think we all want is for marketers to pull back ad dollars and their conversions fall off a cliff.”

So where does this leave brands as they prepare to navigate 2022?

Murphy concluded: “Those that are testing cookie-less environments with us now are reaping the competitive advantage – advertisers that are reaching new audiences, and more of the audience.

Getting in early, you're reaping a competitive advantage as well, so we would massively encourage advertisers to start testing.”

Watch the full discussion from The Drum Predictions 2022 Festival here.

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Quantcast is an American technology company, founded in 2006, that specializes in audience measurement and real-time advertising.

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