How Publishers Can Prepare For A Cookieless Future

Google next year is expected to follow through on a plan to end support for a popular technology to track online audiences, pushing publishers, marketers and ad-tech companies to come up with other ways to improve ad targeting.

Consulting firm Gartner expects publishers will seek direct deals with marketers less likely to run programmatic display advertising across websites.

The growth in direct deals would mark a change in a trend that started a decade ago as programmatic media buying became more popular, leading to steep drops in ad revenue for publishers. Programmatic growth was supported by tracking technologies like third-party cookies that Google won't support in its popular Chrome browser next year.
“For a time in the late '90s, we were writing about the end of newspapers, but it really didn't start tanking until programmatic took off," said Eric Schmitt, senior director analyst in the Gartner for Marketers. "For publishers, there is reason to be optimistic and there's a logic to taking back ownership of the ad inventory, and not necessarily in a way that requires expensive or speculative technology bets.”
The loss of third-party cookies in Chrome means that marketers be without an important indicator of their purchase intent, helping to target consumers in the middle of the purchase funnel. Those signals can be more significant than data such as age and gender.
"There's a generation of marketers out there that have been accustomed to chasing the signal data," Schmitt said. Those signals can include situations when a consumer reads an online review for a product, and subsequently can be targeted as they view other websites.
Schmitt foresees four possibilities for the post-cookie environment: the development of identifiers that act as an alternative to the cookie; a greater focus on walled-garden environments such as Google, Facebook, Amazon or other platforms; an emphasis on collecting first-party data about consumers; and contextual targeting of advertising.
"Contextual is interesting because there's sort of the old interpretation, which is if I want to sell vacations, I should advertise on TripAdvisor. But there's some interesting novel interpretations of the contextual that are out there now," Schmitt said. He cited contextual information like geography, time of day or seasons, in addition to data about programmatic buys.
“Maybe you can harvest some of the bid-stream data that's not privacy-sensitive, like pricing data and the win rate -- those sorts of things that are contextual in the sense it's relevant to the situation at hand, but it's not necessarily personalized," he said. "We will see some new forms of contextual, and we're going to see more publisher-direct deals.”
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