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Tags: Privacy, Google, Programmatic, Publisher, Cookies

Updated: May 6, 2024

Recently, Google announced that removing third-party cookie support in the Chrome browser will be postponed to 2025. Google cited additional time to develop the Privacy Sandbox interfaces to secure approval from the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). This delay once again gives the digital advertising industry valuable extra time to prepare for upcoming changes.

It will be interesting to see which direction the situation will turn now that there is more time. It has been apparent that not everyone has been actively testing and seeking alternative practices; instead, they believe that more comprehensive results and validation for winning strategies will only be seen once cookie support is a thing of the past. At least in part, this is undoubtedly true, but it also seems that especially those publishers whose ad sales are largely programmatic are at risk of losing inventory value unless they prepare for the removal of cookie support before the deadline.

This text examines essential data, current challenges and the difficulty of forecasting, current perspectives, the status of identification solutions, and preparation tips for the upcoming change.


Data Underpinning a Cookieless Future

Since January 2024, Relevant Digital has been collecting data from a one per cent cookieless Google Chrome sample. Our primary interest is to understand how publishers can commercialise a cookieless audience.

At the same time, we are trying to understand the other side—how advertisers can purchase this audience. We have mainly focused on tracking the unit prices (eCPM) that sites can obtain from this audience. Starting from a general level and delving into details, such as whether the value is higher in specific subject areas or when a publisher submits a bid request with a shared identifier. We do this to understand better what works so we can support our publisher clients and further develop the real-time performance analytics of Relevant Yield for publishers and sales networks.


Market Challenges and Forecasting Difficulties

To make reliable forecasts, there is insufficient data on the overall effects of third-party cookie support removal on media sales. The most significant challenge, however, relates to the lack of buyer interest in cookieless audiences and the inability to utilise alternative signals.

However, DSPs cannot be blamed in this situation. We understand that adjusting DSPs to optimise new signals is significantly more demanding than when the sales side starts transmitting new signals. As long as third-party signals are available, purchasing decision systems may favour them. However, as mentioned, there is insufficient data to make reliable forecasts. This applies to all alternative targeting methods, whether PAAPI, TOPICS, or non-Google solutions.


What are the prospects for media sales in light of the current information?

Based on the available data, the situation for media sales is not at all bad. Currently, the value of cookieless audiences appears to be lower, but quite a few of our publisher clients seem to be doing well even without cookies.

At Relevant Digital, we primarily work with large publishers whose sales usually consist of direct sales, deals, and open programmatic. When a publisher can fill more of their inventory with direct sales, less inventory is left for programmatic buying. This also means more competition in this inventory and better opportunities for higher value.

Additionally, our sample of publishers includes many who have actively implemented alternative identifiers, which undoubtedly has its impact. In summary, publishers appear to be doing quite well at the moment.


Alternative Identification Solutions

Shared identifiers, first-party identifiers, and contextual targeting are becoming increasingly crucial for the future, and many publishers are investing heavily in them.

While these are all key elements, the limited interest from the buying side in contextual signals offered by publishers in programmatic purchasing can be somewhat frustrating. This may be due to a lack of trust, but it is important to note that contextual targeting can bring significant value, especially in deals and direct sales.

The popularity of first-party and alternative shared identifiers is also on the rise. A publisher's first-party data is always valuable, but its scalability can be challenging. Still, it will play a significant role. Similarly, shared identifiers are essential, but their providers must be prepared to adapt to potential browser changes. Therefore, solutions based on logged-in users may receive more attention than probability-based solutions.


Preparation: Strategies and Insights

In the current situation, we recommend a strong emphasis on publishers' own direct sales teams so they can offer high-quality direct campaigns and deals utilising contextual targeting and first-party solutions. We encourage sales teams to use market data effectively and to find opportunities for direct and deal sales using OpenRTB data.

Continue the adoption and evaluation of shared identifiers. Stay up-to-date with what different technologies offer. For instance, sell-side ad technologies are continually bringing new solutions to market. GAM offers a variety of options in the beta phase, such as publisher-provided signals, secure signals, and Adform ID fusion, which provides solutions for reach and frequency management.

Ensure you have a tool for analysing your revenue based on your audience. You must know how well you can monetise a cookieless audience and why. Solutions like Relevant Yield's real-time analytics are crucial for reliable performance tracking. Tools like these are essential not only now but also in the future.


Together Towards a More Stable Future

So far, there is no single winning option that solves all problems. Instead, we must be prepared to use multiple tactics simultaneously, and it may take a few years for the situation to stabilise. Generally, we hope that changes in the digital market will bring advertising buyers and sellers closer together. It's also important to remember that while changes pose challenges, they can open new opportunities.

We can build a more sustainable and stable future for the digital advertising ecosystem through collaboration and open communication.

Petri Kokkonen
By: Petri Kokkonen

Petri Kokkonen is the CEO of Relevant Digital. While working with publishers for 20+ years, Petri has gained a broad outlook on sell-side strategies and tactics.


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