The Final Exit of the Third-Party Cookie

a4 Advertising InSites
Cover image for  article: The Final Exit of the Third-Party Cookie

Safari and Firefox were the first to deprecate the cookie and Google Chrome is next in the queue. As numerous industry partners and peers alike race against the clock, Google has pushed back their date, again, to 2024 and the industry is still looking for alternative solutions to the loss of this third-party data. These decisions will have several impacts on ad campaigns, including scale, finding the intended audience and measurement.

a4's Approach

For the past five years, a4 has been positioning itself to obtain and utilize an extensive range of authenticated, first-party data. In addition, a4 partners with countless publishers, DSPs and SSPs, in constant communication regarding their product roadmaps, new initiatives and industry trends. Cultivating and nurturing these relationships will continue to be critical.

As regulations tighten on privacy standards, third-party data may be losing its reverence, while other avenues -- such as first-party and contextual data -- are becoming more and more valuable. As it stands, the technology powering the Lumascape may be considered too invasive, putting privacy concerns at the forefront and opening conversations and feedback from the public.

Google's Proposals

There has been continued collaboration among adtech partners to figure out what comes next in reaching the intended audience while doing so in a privacy-compliant manner. Google's decision to push the date back to 2024 is designed to allow the public to join in on the conversation. Google's first idea was FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), a Privacy Sandbox proposal to contextually group users into buckets to target. All proposals would go through several phases of testing and development, with public feedback taken into consideration.

FLoC was scrapped and replaced with Topics in January. Currently, 300+ interest-based groups will be used to classify site visitors within a three-week time frame. This is intended to create more generalized, privacy-compliant data and will exclude sensitive categories such as gender and race. These topics are powered by the browser and stored on an individual's device rather than an external server, giving more transparency and control to the user.

Effects of a Limited Lookback Period?

It will be interesting to hear advertiser and agency feedback on the three-week lookback period, as the short window should gather more accurate data. However, we could be missing out on relevant users that would normally fall into cohort buckets for longer than three weeks.

Each audience has a different timing relevance. For instance, a user would naturally be in the market for a new car longer than they might be in search of a consumer-packaged good. How will these cohorts scale? With many local advertisers layering on specific geos, the segment size will shrink.

Nonetheless, contextual targeting is and will continue to be extremely important, and whitelisting intended sites and apps has been an effective way to target in the past, given sufficient scale.

Players Across the Lumascape

Several key industry players have shared alternative solutions to targeting and measurement. In the case of the Trade Desk's UID 2.0, an email address is hashed and encrypted into a random number (247MM associated today).

Amazon is utilizing their machine learning capabilities with the intent to model audiences and tap into contextual cohort advertising as well. They are also creating their own Amazon Ad Tag (AAT) for conversion tracking. Current cookie and device ID measurement will be supplemented with hashed email addresses of those users who converted. It's still too early to see how this approach will pan out, but in the ever-changing landscape, it seems that first-party data is more valuable than ever.

a4's Adaptation

a4 will continue to utilize and expand upon first-party data while working with publishers to create new strategic, direct relationships and nurture current relationships. a4 has access to 90MM+ authenticated U.S. household IP addresses where the data is matched to a physical home address and anonymized, providing privacy protected accurate reach to advertisers.

While a4 is keeping up to date with the continued evolution of the larger ecosystem by remaining ahead of regulations, the effort is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Clients have different needs and KPIs with both upper funnel and lower funnel strategies and a4 has been providing options for measuring and optimizing campaign impact at different parts of the funnel and continues to develop new attribution methodologies for key clients.

This article was written by Tricia Thompson, Director of Programmatic Buying, a4 Advertising.

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