Programmatic Summit
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Life in a cookie-less world

Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

In light of Google’s two-year countdown to Chrome’s blocking of third-party cookies, never have such words rung truer. Marketers and publishers stand clutching their attribution models, staring with mawkish eyes at the interests, behaviours and motivations of their consumers—data gleaned from the heyday of the open internet, cookies and UTMs—wondering how they’ll capture such rich data in a cookie-less world.

But before descending into a maelstrom of fear and anxiety, we must heed Fuller’s advice: “…build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Enter the vastly underused first-party cookie
They’ve always been there. Like the shy step-sister hiding behind the veil of the host domain, enviously watching the third-party cookies get all the attention, first-party cookies have always been able to remember key pieces of information, like shopping cart activity, usernames and passwords. Though first-party cookies lack the robust tracking of consumer behaviour across the web, they are still a fundamental stepping stone with the potential to open up new opportunities

“Publishers who have a direct relationship with their audiences are coming up with ways to capitalise on the blocking of third-party cookies,” says Janet Ranola, Paid Media Manager – Search and Programmatic at “For some, offering contextual targeted solutions to map various audience segments is a way they can incorporate more granular targeting that would involve audience sentiment and interest.”

There’s never been doubt about the value of context in digital advertising— creating quality ad environments set within trusted content. It’s well-known that delivering a message to the right people in the right place has a certain magic. But over the years, the temptation and ease of third-party cookies have carved a path away from the self-reliance of earned data through first-party cookies, to the infinite tracking possibilities that third-party cookies provide. So, considering the crumble of the cookie, what will brands have to do?

Says Head of Programmatic at Unruly Group, Heath Irving, “Brands are looking for partners that they can not only leverage their first-party data with, but also scale it out to achieve a more holistic view of their consumers. I think despite some of the legal and technical challenges, we’ll see the emergence of new businesses, and consumer data platforms will be emerging with the data management platforms to become more prevalent as marketers want to marry up the two.”

The sentiment of getting back to the basics of contextual advertising while seeking new data platforms also rings true with Head of Digital Marketing at, Jennifer Snell. “With the industry moving away from cookies, increasingly there will be times when declared data isn’t available. In those instances, contextual advertising, and audiences built on contextual signals, will be increasingly important.”

The rise of publisher power
At present, advertisers define which publishers’ users fit their audiences, but in a post-cookie world, publishers will have the power, utilising their own data to match their users with an advertiser’s audience—and that’s a good thing! This presents an opportunity for publishers to effectively monetise their first-party data while adhering to compliance laws. In order to do this, publishers will need to implement new technology tools that rely on privacy, trust & scale, and will allow them to activate and analyse their data in real time.

From this perspective, the two-year target is not as scary as some may think. In fact, publishers can significantly benefit from the consumer and legislative propensity towards a collective respect for consumer privacy on the net. It will simply require some creative re-structuring of their business models and the tools & technology they choose to use. Too many publishers for too long have missed the opportunity to capitalise on the data right in front of them, and in a pair of years, they’ll be challenged, nay forced, to open their eyes and see the light.

Think relevance; first-party data comes directly from the customers, giving publishers insight into exactly how they act and think. Consider the accuracy; because audiences are so close to a business, there is less chance of erroneous data coming in. Cost and availability round out the quality and relevance of data gleaned from first-party cookies, and it doesn’t stop there.

Tried and true tactics like customer phone call monitoring, behavioural data from online interactions with a brand, and social media data—who follows your brand, and who else do they follow—are still highly relevant ways of gaining audience insights leading to effective retargeting.

While third-party cookies have been an unwavering constant in audience segmentation and behavioural data for years, the demise of this luxury is sure to free up the ad tech space for newer, safer—dare I say—more accurate audience targeting across new channels in a brave new world of programmatic advertising.

In the words of Winston Churchill, “It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.” Don’t we know it!

Join us at the Programmatic Summit 2020 as an engaging panel of publishers and tech partners discuss the future of audience targeting in 2020 and beyond. Book tickets now.

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