While advertising industry trade groups objected to Google’s setting a two-year deadline for phasing out third-party cookies, citing an absence of consensus on timing and alternatives, the technology and advertising industries have long known that cookies’ days were numbered.
With log-in and other first-party data now the focus, publishers and platforms — especially Google itself, YouTube, Facebook and Amazon — will be in the driver’s seat when it comes to providing measurable ad-targeting alternatives.
What does all of this mean for OTT, connected TV and advanced television in general?
“OTT providers like Hulu, Sling and Xandr have the strongest and most scalable log-in information tied to device IDs and content interest, putting them in the best position to build out audience targeting — second only to Facebook and Google,” he continued.
“OTT will also benefit from other channels losing measurement capabilities, due to its conversion tracking parity. As programmatic loses cookies, and ultimately its long-enjoyed value proposition, OTT will strengthen its position in the media mix, with strong audience targeting and more impactful units.”
Like all other players, Comscore has a major stake in how this revolution plays out.
And because of its methodology’s focus on contextual and Identifier For Advertising (IFA)-based audience targeting and measurement, it’s actually welcoming Google’s proverbial pulling of the trigger.
Rachel Gantz, general manager for activation at Comscore, offered Advanced TV Insider some thoughts about how the company views the landscape ahead, including the implications for ATV and targeting in general.
Given the widening implementation of consumer data regulations in recent years, Comscore “has been preparing for the inevitability of the phasing out of cookies for some time,” says Gantz.
“The Google announcement starts the clock on a shift in infrastructure from convenient, non-controlled cookie-based identity management and exchange to a more structured environment where consumers have more direct control of their data, and metrics are more well-defined,” she says.
“Consumers want the ability to make informed decisions regarding how their personal information is used, but they also want a free internet and relevant advertising. This announcement lays out a clear timeline for all of the players in the advertising ecosystem to come together to fully address those needs.”
The new cookie-less playing field “will come with significant advantages and fix problems that exist today with ad targeting, validation and audience measurement,” Gantz says. “But it will not fix all of them, and it may even create some new ones.”
Comscore thinks it’s well-positioned to help provide cookie-free solutions for digital ad targeting.
“There have been significant advancements in contextual solutions that have been somewhat overlooked by the industry as audience-based solutions became more popular,” Gantz says.
“We expect the pendulum to swing back toward contextual solutions and leveraging contextual-based demographic offerings so that media buyers can still meet their desired KPIs, like age/gender in-target rates, but can do so in a cookie-free manner.”
Such solutions have become increasingly widely used in EMEA, where audience-based targeting has declined since GDPR went into effect. And with the end of cookies now in sight, Comscore expects to see broader adoption in the U.S., as well.
Comscore’s Media Mix measurement provides cookie-free audience composition segments “that enable marketers to bid only on pages with a high composition of visitors with specific enhanced demographics, such as household size, household income, presence of children in the household, etc.,” points out Gantz.
“Cookies, never a measure of persons — and not a great measure of devices, for that matter — have tended not to be a reliable source for these types of segments,” she emphasizes.
Which, she says, is why Comscore centered its reporting around tagged events calibrated to panel data, translating various IDs and associated events into measures of persons with demographic attributes.
“Identity of individuals or specific profiles are not necessary to provide robust planning tools, cross-platform audience estimates, or targetable segments,” Gantz argues. “As the ecosystem shifts away from tracking tags to other solutions, our methodology still applies.”
The Google dictum is also coming at a time when CTV and addressable are just taking off, “so it will be interesting to see the dynamics play out,” she notes.
While publishers will welcome the greater power bestowed by the new emphasis on first-party data, “it will take far greater collaboration among publishers than ever before to create a seamless experience for the marketer and a relevant experience for the consumer,” she stresses.
The inevitable march of greater consumer data control and the two-year cookies phase-out also “put even more importance on an IFA-based [as opposed to IP address-based] approach, aligned to the IAB guidelines, as a privacy-focused approach for audience-based activation for CTV,” Gantz asserts.
Seemingly good news for Comscore, which last September teamed with key ad platforms to launch CTV IFA audiences. Providing clear consumer opt-out mechanisms via an IFA approach enables relevant ad targeting in a privacy-focused manner, she says.
Comscore is positioned to help the industry find unified advertising targeting and measurement solutions because its first-party-central source and methodology provide a foundation for “normalizing and calibrating data across platforms and sources,” Gantz sums up.
We encourage readers to weigh in with their own thoughts about how the death of cookies will affect advanced TV, and what types of solutions and strategies are likely to prevail.