Emptying The Cookie Jar: What a Cookieless Future Really Means

On the digital side of the advertising industry, we have been dependent on cookies since the birth of the internet (if we’re being honest). With Google announcing the seemingly slow burn of the third party cookie, leaving the world a cookieless place sometime in the next two years, many players who operate in the nuts and bolts of advertising are left grappling with what this means. For advertisers and partners, the future of effective measurement and targeting hinges on changing the way we use our infrastructure to understand identity in the digital space in a privacy compliant way.

What does this future of measurement look like? In large part, it’s an identity mapping exercise. 

Solutions for identity matching that are actively in place and being augmented include LiveRamp’s Identity Link solution, which already contains identity graph mapping to (first-party) cookie IDs and device IDs. LiveRamp continues to validate partnerships across the ecosystem, most recently with the TradeDesks’ Unified Identity 2.0, which leverages logged-in user identities from Publishers that have user consent. Major media companies and walled gardens have even aligned via the WFA to propose a new Virtual ID solution to match impressions in aggregate across channels to enable reliable measurement. In fact, Identity is one of the spaces where investment is flowing (TransUnion, Neustar, Oracle, Adobe all have made significant investments).

As dire as the news has sounded, it’s certainly not all doom and gloom- there are certainly other ways to solve for identity that are not third-party cookie dependent. The catch, however, is that advertisers must ensure that the vendors they are working with are very buttoned up on their user consent, as well as how they’re engaging with and managing IP addresses and identifiers for matching. Identity, Data security and privacy will be the new table stakes in advertising. 

The second piece of the cookieless future demands a reliable methodology for handling the measurement of impressions that cannot be mapped to an identifier. Without an identifier, we cannot allow for skew correction of biases that exist in the dataset, so modeling and methodology are paramount. Consumers will opt-out or fail to opt-in, and our industry must account for those impressions delivered to consumers that do not want to be identified with a valid methodology. Remember, this is not a new problem for our industry, we’ve been seeing a steady degradation of identity matching in the digital world since the beginning of online advertising. First we made third-party cookies expire after a set time period, pixel tracker tools came into being (if Ghostery is ringing a bell), then browsers blocked cookies all together; Safari killed third-party cookies, then Firefox, now Chrome. In short, ad technology providers have been using alternative identifiers to third-party cookie IDs for quite some time and they have been using models. Now these models must become more advanced, resilient and transparent about how they work, to engender confidence in their reliability.

At VideoAmp we have invested heavily in a strong identity graph across multiple partners. We are working closely with the WFA and media partners directly to enable privacy-first data sharing with identity resolution. And finally, we have a reliable methodology to account for all impressions delivered with no known identifier.