Addressability Solutions for a Post-Cookie World

Mike McNeeley, Senior vice president, product
Today’s addressability landscape is constantly shifting. Consumers want more transparency and control over their data, regulations like GDPR continue to evolve, and tech platforms are limiting third-party cookies and device identifiers.

These shifts create fundamental changes in the ways marketers, publishers, and ad tech providers consider their audiences and addressability. Mike McNeeley, SVP of product at Index, shares an overview of new addressability solutions and how to prepare for the future of addressability.

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Privacy-centric addressability solutions

Third-party cookies are already restricted in browsers like Safari, Firefox, and Edge, and Google Chrome also plans to fully phase them out in 2024. This will signal the death of the cookie as we know it, ending the relatively simple—yet imperfect—approach to addressability that we enjoy today.

Our industry has an opportunity to implement an improved privacy-first approach, and a range of ID-based and non-ID-based solutions are already emerging. 

To be clear, there won’t be one winner. Post-cookie addressability will take many forms, and will require a more robust approach with a mix of solutions for different channels and audience types.

Let’s take a look at the different addressability solutions.

Authenticated IDs

With these IDs, consumers will have the choice to consent with their log-in data, email, or phone number, which can then be used to create an encrypted online identifier. 

Because authenticated IDs are connected to an individual’s login, marketers can reach audiences across the devices that they’ve logged into—smartphones, laptops, even connected TVs depending on the ID provider.

Marketers also don’t have to radically change their current approaches while still realizing all the benefits of people-based marketing, including reaching audiences across devices, person-level frequency capping, and cross-device measurement and attribution. Unified ID 2.0 from The Trade Desk and LiveRamp’s RampID are a couple of examples of these IDs. There are also clean room solutions emerging to allow secure data sharing. 

Non-authenticated IDs

Let’s shift now to optimizing for non-authenticated audiences, or those who choose not to log in or consent. There are three paths here. 

First are inferred IDs, which might use device-level probabilistic inferences and other signals to associate a consumer to the sites they visit in a browser.

Next is publisher first-party data, which is increasingly valuable in today’s privacy-centric landscape. One solution is Seller-Defined Audiences from the IAB Tech Lab and Prebid. Still in its early stages of adoption, it provides a standardized taxonomy that allows scaled cross-site targeting. Other solutions include intent data based on consumer browsing behavior, as well as advanced contextual targeting, which may signal interest or intent that allows marketers to reach audiences based on those relevant content signals.

Finally, we have Google Privacy Sandbox, a series of APIs for alternatives to cookie-based advertising. Rather than simply turning off cookies, Google has been developing new solutions to preserve effective advertising for content creators while ensuring privacy for consumers. The primary downside is that as of now, these solutions won’t work in FireFox, Safari, or Edge browser environments. 

Let’s dive into each of the Sandbox APIs. 

  • The Protected Audience API allows for custom audiences and re-marketing by creating Interest Groups, which are anonymized and generalized audience groups, and moving the ad auction off the page and into a secure browser environment.
  • The Topics API allows for interest-based advertising based on consumers’ recent browsing. The browser will infer a handful of interest-based categories to help serve relevant ads, without revealing specific consumer data. This can be used for optimization and high-level targeting.
  • The Attribution Reporting API uses methods like encryption, time delays, and data aggregation and randomization to help marketers measure ad performance without tracking specific consumer activity across sites or accessing any individual’s data.

The post-cookie future

So what are the implications for these new solutions and the future of addressability?

The world of addressability tomorrow will be all about adaptability and flexibility. Depending on your needs, you might need a portfolio of solutions to meet your business objectives, channel focus, and regional privacy policies. 

The addressability landscape is changing in a big way, and will continue to get more complicated. The ease of buying programmatic via a third-party cookie will cease to exist.

Be proactive and start testing new solutions. Acting now means a better digital advertising ecosystem in the future—one where marketers can reach their desired audiences, publishers can monetize their content, and consumers have control over their privacy.

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