A consensus has emerged that first-party data -- especially the kind collected by digital publishers to identify their users -- is emerging as the logical replacement solution to digital 1.0's browser cookies. Getting there is an ongoing process that will require some ingenuity and innovation.
The truth is we're in a transition period from one world to another, and the current marketplace is more of a hybrid solution of browser cookies, when and where they still work, and efforts to organize a critical mass of publishers' first-party user identification data, which for all intent and purposes, is a publisher-side cookie (even if he industry doesn't call it that).
Programmatic "traders have some concerns about data quality, especially when it comes to cookies," concludes Adelphic's recent "Programmatic In The Trenches" report, which surveyed 250 programmatic traders at agencies and in-house at clients in August and found that 98% believe first-party data is the best alternative to cookies.
"As cookie use changes – browsers Firefox, Chrome and Safari all plan to limit them to varying extents – traders have had to adapt and change how they target audiences. Clearly, to those we surveyed, first-party data is a far better option than relying on cookies alone," Adelphic concludes.
The problem is organizing the disparate array of publisher-side data into a simple, unified process capable of targeting consumers with the same ubiquity that simple browser-based cookies did for the first two decades of web advertising's history.
Like most changes in the media industry, it likely will be more of a progression -- or I should say, a series of progressions -- rather than a simple, universal rule or industry standard. OpenX and LiveRamp recently unveiled an approach that I think is a good model for the rest of the industry.
The deal integrates LiveRamp's proprietary methods for organizing publisher-based user IDs -- products called IdentityLink and Audience Traffic Solutions (ATS) -- into OpenX's biddable audience marketplace.
The companies describe the solution as an antidote to the erosion of browser-based cookies, but LiveRamp's Travis Clinger explains they're still utilizing the best of both worlds, at least until the old world no longer exists. LiveRamp's solution, he says, basically continues to leverage cookies where they continue to function -- mainly on Google's Chrome browser -- and integrates them with its database of publisher-based user IDs to create a seamless, unduplicated database.
Ultimately, he says the industry expects Chrome to kill its browser cookies too, and the only logical solution will be publisher-side first-party data.
Another interesting observation about this approach is that Clinger says it's the only alternative to what the big walled garden platforms -- Google, Facebook, and increasingly Amazon -- have via their ubiquitous user identification data.
That made me think that what LiveRamp -- and others -- really are doing, is assembling identity graphs by aggregating lots of small, disparate walled gardens: ie. publishers.