Which system will best replace third-party cookies?

Chris Hogg (1)As part of Google’s post-cookie roadmap, it has announced it won’t be using alternative identifiers in its products. Identity solutions remain integral, however, to helping marketers develop engaging, personalised and addressable ad campaigns across the global open web.

With consumer behaviours more dynamic than ever, there is a rising pressure to understand audiences better. So, what options are available to marketers and advertisers as third-party cookies are phased out?

Contextual
Contextual has earned a lot of attention lately, as a targeting method that uses page content, instead of user data, to tailor advertising. On the surface, this sounds like a strong basis to craft highly relevant, seamless experiences for consumers.

However, it’s important to note that a lot of pages with ad space are not contextually relevant for advertisers, which calls into question the scale of this method and accuracy.

In addition, to truly optimise contextual, advertisers need to combine the context of more than one page to track consumers through the content they view. Doing this will require user consent, otherwise marketers will find precision, measurement and scale significantly impacted – calling the extent of contextual capabilities alone into question. Similar to Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts (FloC) privacy challenges, contextual must actively (not passively) require consent.

Cohorts
Cohorts are groups of anonymous consumer profiles that share a common interest or browsing history. Google claims this approach can achieve a 95% accuracy rate in comparison to cookies, following in-house tests of its FLoC proposal.

Although this is a tempting proposition, FLoC also brings marketers all the challenges of operating within a walled garden. Moreover, Google will have the final say when classifying content, limiting media owners’ ability to decide this themselves.

A user can only be in one cohort at a time, which is problematic as consumers have multiple interests and intent at any given time. How privacy-safe cohorts will be when fully fledged is also up for debate as Google will not be testing in Europe where GDPR and the ePrivacy directive are in effect, leaving a lot of unanswered questions for this method.

Authenticated (deterministic) identity
Deterministic identity relies on users consenting to provide personal information, such as their email address, which publishers and brands can request in exchange for additional value from sites or apps.

The high accuracy of this solution enables precise targeting and effective measurement – a strong recipe for optimised advertising. The flipside is that only 21% of consumers trust brands with keeping personal information secure, indicating a reluctance to share personal information and reducing the scale of this method.

Non-authenticated (probabilistic) identity
Probabilistic identity complements its deterministic counterpart due to the scale it provides. Using publicly available data, for instance IP addresses and browser user agents, probabilistic solutions assign a cluster of these signals with an ID that can then be activated across devices and domains.

The key benefits include increased scale, frequency management and the ability to engage prospective customers. Further, privacy is upheld with this approach as users are not required to input an email, home address or phone number. This data minimisation means that an attempted hack on an encrypted ID will not reveal any of these personal details from consumers.

Probabilistic identity does depend on IP addresses, however, which the IAB Europe’s Transparency & Consent Framework advises vendors to gain consent to use. In light of this, it’s important for identity providers to maintain a clear, auditable privacy trail if leveraging non-authenticated IDs.

When it comes to the phaseout of third-party cookies, it appears there’s no single solution that ticks all the boxes – but marketers shouldn’t despair.

Research conducted by Lotame reveals 95% of marketers believe the future of advertising in a cookieless ecosystem relies on multiple interoperable ID solutions. By adopting a portfolio of methods, marketers can ensure they continue to reach consumers across preferred channels and optimise their advertising efforts.

Chris Hogg is managing director EMEA of Lotame

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