Succeeding in a world of cookie deprecation

As the industry adapts to a world without third-party cookies, marketers must first perform a gap analysis to understand the immediate impact on their business — an exercise we outlined in our post last month. Longer term, brands will need to embark on three phases to develop their post-cookie strategy: 

  1. Select your new currency
  2. Operationalize your identity solution
  3. Write the new normal

Let’s dive in.

Phase 1: Select your new currency 

At its core, the deprecation of third-party cookies disrupts currents models of identity — models that are used for ad targeting, optimization and attribution. 

Your impact assessment will shine a light on where your current tech stack will suffer outages and can help inform your approach to a replacement identity solution. Brands will need to develop new identity strategies based on new data currencies that can match a consumer to an ad exposure. 

New data currencies

A number of identity solutions are being developed across the industry, each approaching the challenge of identity in different ways. 

Despite buzz for a “universal identifier,” it’s likely there will be multiple viable solutions in the market instead of just one.

As ad-tech companies jostle for position, adopting a solution with sufficient scale will be key. Even so, brands will likely need to leverage several solutions to replicate existing functionality. The most promising candidates for a new data currency include a pseudonymized ID, a hashed PII identifier and aggregated cohort browser data. 

Each of these identifiers collects and shares data differently, so it’s important to understand how they work before hitching your horse to any wagon. At a high level: 

  • A pseudonymized ID allows you to leverage PII to generate an artificial ID while reducing the linkage of the ID to the original PII
  • A hashed PII identifier allows you to share an encrypted ID that can resolve back to a single user
  • Aggregated cohort browser data removes 1:1 targeting by instead creating an audience bound together by a common identifier such as IP address or user agent or a non-cookie-based signal like daypart or context

Planning your integration

Next, you will need to understand if your new ID can be adopted or integrated into your existing tech stack or if new masking technology is required to translate and activate the solution. 

If you already have an identity resolution provider in place, ideally, the new ID solution you choose can integrate with it directly. If not, it’s a good opportunity to choose a solution that meets your needs out-of-the-box.

Beyond deploying the new ID, brands will need a data collection strategy to inform their media activation and measurement approach. You will want to ensure you can take PII data and translate it anonymously to enable your measurement and activation strategy. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you navigate this:

  • Can you pipe your PII into existing platforms, or do you need an anonymous ID?
  • Do you already use an anonymous ID through a DMP or data onboarding partner like Neustar? (Be sure to check in you impact assessment their solution can still be leveraged once cookies are deprecated.)
  • How will your ID be generated? Will it be generated each time a user logs in if you have a sign-on? Or will you match PII to an anonymous ID offline? 

Phase 2: Operationalize your identity solution

Once you have a long-term identity solution identified, it’s time to make it operational. Keep in mind that the whole industry is moving away from a deterministic 1:1 approach to a more blended approach that will include both 1:1 matching and cohorts that leverage deterministic and probabilistic approaches. 

Do you have the necessary skills in-house to manage the solution internally, or will you engage a third-party provider?

In either scenario, you’ll need a team with experience navigating data-safe environments, advanced analytics capabilities like predictive modeling and the ability to plug these predictive models into your platforms. 

If you currently work with an agency, this is a good place for a consultation on the best path forward. 

As you deploy your new solution, be sure your team continues to monitor opt-out rates, ID collection rates and media impact. You’ll need to continue making adjustments based on the data in front of you — snapshots of time reports won’t be sufficient. 

Phase 3: Write the new normal

Now that you know what data currency you’ll use and how it will be collected, deployed and shared, it’s time to put your plan into action. Your solution will need to be integrated into your media activation strategy and measurement approach — and result in some unlikely outcomes and opportunities. 

As you deploy your new solution, be sure to monitor how your media plans have changed. Note if you have moved away from certain strategies (either automatically or manually) as a result of cookie deprecation and monitor the impact on media performance in various environments. 

Brands will need to adjust KPIs and benchmarks to align with the new normal.

This can be challenging, especially since they will likely differ from historical data — especially as it relates to MTA, site traffic and frequency targets. 

Still, new opportunities may await. There may be strategies and tactics that perform better today than in the old world. Leverage these to inform your benchmarks and continue to optimize your campaigns.