As consumers across the globe become increasingly aware of their digital identity and personal data rights and further regulations take hold, it’s unsurprising that Google has announced it will not be replacing third-party cookies with identifiers and email addresses.

Advertisers now need to look for new ways to engage valuable customers on a one-to-one basis. Digital targeting and measurement strategies that the industry has grown up around will need to be rebuilt for a privacy-first world.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity for the industry – to champion privacy while finding new and innovative ways to provide marketers and consumers with relevant, targeted ad experiences. The industry needs to determine the best path forward and partner to develop strategic identity solutions, enabling publishers to maximize the value of their first-party data, help advertisers meet their business goals, and build consumer trust in digital advertising.

A new vision for a new digital identity ecosystem

Collaboration between partners within the digital identity and advertising ecosystem is now more important than ever. Suppose advertisers want to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns across the whole of the Internet. In that case, they need to be working with partners who can join up these conversations without operating a walled garden. Greater collaboration is also vital for local premium publishers to continue developing creative, engaging content for consumers, which is the foundation of their ongoing success.  

The central principle of navigating this changing landscape is for the digital advertising industry to understand where it goes with respect to identity, and it needs to do that with consistency. This means how it will handle identity in the face of the death of third-party cookies, the rise in regulation, and the evolving ways that it is buying and selling advertising today.

Increasing regulation around data privacy – such as the GDPR in Europe – has been one of the biggest drivers for change in our industry. So, advertisers will want to work with companies adhering to data regulations and encouraging transparency within the supply chain. On top of that, many brands will need to feel a sense of ‘safety through familiarity.’ When discussing compliance, it helps to work with a partner with similar challenges, protocols, and internal processes. For example, a bank or a telecommunication company is going to want partners that can demonstrate their security frameworks meets the country’s data privacy standards, as well as your company’s individual privacy standards.  

With cookies, these have been relied on for a very long time, yet we’ve seen over the past year or two that we can generate brilliant performance leveraging solutions that do not rely on this. However, as things stand, there isn’t one silver bullet to identity or one single solution, and it won’t be solved for some time. What needs to be done now is to take a very deliberate multi-pronged approach to solve identity. While first-party data goes some way to achieving this, brands can get market-leading performance and competitive advantage even by just using strong and innovative contextual solutions. It’s important for brands not to stand still at this point; testing innovative new solutions will mean you’re well equipped to deal with what comes next. 

Adopting new models to meet changing needs

For publishers, this means that they need to look at how they can use their proprietary assets to evolve their business models and package and sell their inventory in a way that best meets the needs of the buyer in our rapidly changing digital advertising landscape.

Developing different ways to generate and acquire authenticated first-party data will be one key area of focus for publishers. Many are already doing that as they look to build out subscriber bases. This means that if a person uses their email address every time they visit a site, the publisher can use it as a persistent identifier. From here, they can start to build a profile of that user and what their interests are. By better understanding individual users, publishers’ inventory becomes more valuable to advertising partners, as they can effectively target specific audience profiles. 

Alternative ways that publishers can use their assets, such as building up contextual solutions. The ability to build contextual profiles has advanced greatly since the early days of simply placing adverts for mortgages in financial publications. Today there is much more accurate contextual information about specific articles, so publishers should be looking at utilizing this. Today you can even use contextual solutions to match the sentiment of a piece; for example, if you’re a brand selling retro cameras, you can target context that generates the feeling of nostalgia. 

In the future, publishers will need to consider device-based advertising. If we consider the devices that will support advertising or do already support advertising, very little of that is cookie-based anyway. A raft of different devices will come into play here, such as smart speakers, CTV, and even wearable tech. None of this will be dependent on a cookie, so there needs to be continued investment in exploring these areas and the new audiences they offer. 

With the right data protection, privacy controls in place, and the right partners on board, it remains possible to provide consumers with critical choices and insight into the value exchange of advertising and content. By these means, we can also ensure that we enable publishers and marketers to achieve the required outcomes. At this point in time, the worst thing you can do is stand still and wait for something to happen around you. Your audience is still there online, so it’s important that you take all the steps necessary to continue connecting with them.

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