Search for third-party cookie replacement continues

cookie replacement
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Despite frustrating delays, publishers are ‘pushing ahead’ with their search for a viable third-party cookie replacement strategy. And in a ‘deeply fragmented and uncertain landscape’, the industry is coming around to the idea that there will be more than one path to cookie-less success.

  • Writing in What’s New In Publishing, Marine Desoutter of ad-tech platform Equativ has highlighted frustration over Google’s feet dragging and the apparent lack of progress on its cookie cull, describing 2022 as Groundhog Day for industry players.
  • After replacing its cohort-based FLoCs initiative with the subject-led Topics approach to audience targeting, the search giant bounced the deadline date for phasing out third-party cookies from next year to the second half of 2024.
  • However, Google’s delays don’t mean that publishers have abandoned their hopes for the introduction of a more privacy-friendly approach to customer tracking and advertising targeting. Desoutter wrote:

Publishers and brands understand that operating without traditional trackers isn’t a future goal; it’s an urgent current priority.

Privacy-first advertising

Citing data from Equativ’s September 2022 Identity Indicator report, Desoutter said both buyers and sellers are adopting mixed approaches to privacy-first targeting and monetization.

  • While browsers that still accept third-party cookies hold the biggest share of advertising inventory, the balance is starting to move towards those blocking cookies by default. Compared with Q3 2021, auction share for Firefox and Safari has grown in most markets. Germany posted the highest level of zero-cookie ad space overall, with 35% on desktop and 19% on mobile.
  • Fears surrounding Google’s blocking of alternative identifiers in 2021 haven’t been fully realized as alternative ID uptake has climbed. This is, in part, due to a softening of Google’s position and its willingness to support publisher use of encrypted identifiers. Almost 70% of US auctions include an alternative ID, the highest globally. Germany is in second place with 65% and the UK is third with 62% of auctions including alternative IDs.
  • Greater adoption of Apple’s iOS 14.5 has fuelled availability of consented in-app ad space on Apple devices. Worries that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency framework would bring mass opt-outs have not materialized in the UK, where consented inventory rose to 34%. However, consent has fallen universally, down by 14% in the US.
Fragmented future

Desoutter said publishers and advertisers haven’t used ‘moving goalposts’ as an excuse to slow down their efforts to implement third-party cookie replacement strategies. She believes publishers need to remain flexible as market conditions fluctuate and that a blend of approaches will be crucial to maintaining advertising income. This could include using a range of identifiers along with compliant methods of activating non-consented audiences.

Advertisers and publishers are also working to build audience trust, experimenting with different approaches to targeting when the lack of consent means that no IDs can be sent with bid requests. Dessoutter points out that volumes of inventory with no ID present are very similar to the use of alternative IDs in some markets – the UK (58%), France (45%) and the US (53%).

This hard-won progress signals encouraging determination to adapt and maintain efficiency using available, compliant methods. It also shows the industry is at last accepting that there is no one single road to cookie-free success.

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