The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

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By Thomas Hobbs, Journalist

April 4, 2022 | 5 min read

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As third-party cookies are relegated to the annals of history, many marketers have been pinning their hopes on universal ID solutions able to track specific users across the internet. But is this technology really viable with big tech privacy enforcement becoming more stringent?

Are advertisers and publishers going to start to prioritize privacy over scale?

Are advertisers and publishers going to start to prioritize privacy over scale?

Speaking on a panel as part of The Drum’s Digital Transformation festival, Permutive’s head of partnerships Steve Francolla said that he believed that first-party data, integrated with compliant identity solutions, represented the way forward for marketers.

Privacy over scale

“The current climate around privacy is going to significantly drive down the scale of what's possible for IDs in a compliant manner,” said Francolla. “I think that, ultimately, advertisers and publishers are going to start to prioritize privacy over scale.”

Panelists discussed whether marketers had become too reliant on third-party cookies.

Media Monks vice-president of go-to market Myles Younger asserted that digital advertising’s forced uncoupling from third-party cookies revealed that the sector had “overreached” itself.

“Advertising existed and grew successfully for 150 years before cross-site tracking came along and was entirely successful during that time,” he said. “If you look back at the third-party cookie, ad tech could not have asked for more. That is now being unwound. I think that we will realize that digital advertising overreached itself and we're now pulling back from that. It's less a reversion to the past and more a reversion to the mean.”

Future of Privacy Forum director of technology and privacy research, Christy Harris, argued that ID systems gave marketers the opportunity to turn over a new leaf on privacy and data management.

“Cookies were initially developed as a mechanism for state management on websites,” she said. “But they’re also able to facilitate very robust tracking that goes far beyond what users expect. We're now seeing a recognition that there are practices that maybe should not be enabled by default. ID solutions will not replace cookies but will achieve data collection goals in a more private manner.”

First-party potential

Panelists agreed on the need to build a more responsible digital environment as web3 evolves.

“We need to rebuild the infrastructure for a more responsible web,” said Francolla. “So, we need to start looking at technologies that have been naturally built for consent, privacy and transparency. They exist today, it's time to look at them.”

He continued: “First-party data has not reached its potential. And so, at least from our perspective, there is an immense opportunity to make it more efficient for advertisers and publishers to be able to partner on a one-to-one basis, but also on a one-to-many basis. That is a major step toward squeezing out that value in a post-cookie future.”

Panelists also debated whether user identity was dead in the water thanks to big tech’s increasingly severe privacy measures.

“Identity is not dead,” asserted 4A’s senior vice-president of media, tech and data, Kevin Freemore. “It's just being redefined in many different ways. It'll make measurement more complex, which means it is a good time to sit down with advertisers and reassess, what are the actual measurements that really matter per campaign? And how do we test and test and test?”

Harris added that what was changing, thanks to web3, was who manages user identity.

“The management and control of identity is shifting to individual users,” she said. “Entities that want access to this information will no longer be able to just access it by default, they'll instead need to engage with the users in transparent and meaningful and respectful ways.

“We’re finally at a point where we're seeing this transition from the traditional notice and choice standard to one of actually understanding and setting and respecting user expectations.”

Francolla concluded that he believed identity was changing for the better.

“Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook tried to kill off email over a decade ago. And that didn't happen. I think it's the same thing here. There’s always going to be a place for identity, it's going to be a tool and a valuable tool. It's just definitely shifting.

“And, I think, once when we get there, it'll look far more responsible, compared to what we have been doing to date.”

To watch the full panel discussion, click here.

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