IAB Europe Virtual Programmatic Day – The Post-Cookie Era Panel wrap-up

IAB Europe’s Virtual Programmatic Day took place on 28th April and with 1,500+ attendees it is one of the largest virtual events in our industry. Featuring speakers from IAB Europe member companies CNN, Bloomberg Media, BBC Global News, Double Verify, IAS, OMD, MediaCom, Google and OpenX, the event was split into panel sessions to address and debate the industries hottest topics from post-cookie to programmatic in-housing.

The Post-Cookie Era Panel
The first panel of the event addressed one of the most fundamental technology advances our industry has seen in many years, the announcement that third-party cookies were to be depleted. This session explored how prepared the industry is for the demise of third-party cookies, the opportunities and challenges, whether it will still be possible to deliver targeted advertising, impacts on measurement, attribution and frequency capping and key actions the industry needs to take.

Tanzil Bukhari, Managing Director EMEA, DoubleVerify moderated the panel and was joined by:

  • Daniel Knapp, Chief Economist, IAB Europe
  • Sara Vincent, Senior Director, Strategic Partner Development, Index Exchange
  • Mathieu Roche, Co-founder & CEO, ID5
  • Ben Hancock, Global Head of Programmatic Trading, CNN International
  • Richard Sharp, Senior Director, Oracle Data Cloud
  • Sharon Marshall, Director EMEA Partnerships Solutions – Data Trust, Google

Event Recording
Watch the event recording here.

Audience Polls
We ran a couple of audience polls during the panel to ask how stakeholders expect the depletion of the third-party cookie to impact programmatic trading levels and whether consumers will benefit. Two thirds of the audience (69%) expect some or a large decrease in programmatic trading whilst nearly half (47%) are not sure if consumers will notice any difference after the depletion.

Key takeaways of the panel discussion as cited by Tanzil include:

  • Contextual targeting has the potential to be a front-runner as an alternative targeting solution. Scaling in-depth, accurate understanding of the content on the page, together with engagement signals, to help uncover what drives performance in a privacy compliant way.
  • Education is imperative to all constituents from the consumers to publishers, advertisers and everyone in between, there needs to be an open understanding in order for us to evolve from measuring alone, to driving campaign performance.
  • We must challenge the status quo as an industry, aiming for solutions that work across the whole ecosystem and keeping users at the centre of this conversation to build trust.

Audience Q&A
The panel garnered great levels of engagement from the audience with more questions than they had time to answer! The panelists have provided their viewpoints on some of those questions here:

Q. Retargeting has been a huge part of marketing tactics for direct response brands for years – without cookies, what’s the alternatives to get similar conversion rates?

Mathieu Roche: Third-party cookies are just a technical solution to store user IDs; there are other ways to make user IDs available to ad tech platforms so that use cases such as retargeting can be executed, mainly using first-party storage such as first-party cookies or local storage.

Richard Sharp: The ability to re engage customers and prospects visiting a brand’s digital properties is an effective strategy for many Oracle clients. The good news is there are several solutions that can enable retargeting and yield similar conversion rates. The first is through authenticated traffic. Several solutions are available today that can reach consumers who are in a logged in state both on a brand’s site and on the publisher’s site. This includes retargeting PII-matched or hashed email audiences on walled gardens and several identity consortium’s that are enabling this for open web programmatic retargeting. Alternatively, retargeting is a viable strategy through device IDs in mobile apps or on connected TVs. Consumers today have more devices than ever, offering a myriad of ways to reach those people. But on different devices, they can be enabled either directly, retargeting the same device ID, or indirectly, linking logged in users to device IDs using cross-device.

Q. Measuring marketing activities has long been based on cookies – without this direct link to who saw your ads, what measurement solutions should we pivot to?

Tanzil Bukhari: DoubleVerify does not rely on cookies to detect fraud, deliver brand safety or measure viewability, therefore quality measurement solutions have not been as impacted. As it relates to targeting and performance measurement, advertisers will turn to new technologies, like contextual, as well as more meaningful performance measures.We are able to gather troves of information on the impact of ad exposure and key dimensions of engagement to predict the likelihood of an ad to convert. It is time to start mining and analyzing this information – which does not include PII – to better understand the environment that is most conducive to achieving specific KPIs, ultimately driving ROI.

Richard Sharp: Marketers should focus on measurement solutions that are based on the ability to identify real people and households, ones that are not bound and dependent on cookies. At Oracle Data Cloud, this is foundational to our measurement solutions, as for our entire history we’ve focused on building multiple linkages using MAIDs, IFAs, and registration-based matches. While most of our identity-based measurement does not rely on cookies at all, we’re future-proofing our solutions to move to person-based matching and panel-based data sources that move beyond cookies to consent, so they’re compliant with an ever-evolving privacy landscape. Lastly, it’s worth asking if your measurement solutions are working with respected industry-wide approaches like IFA.

Q. In a cookie-less world, will contextual win the targeting game?

Mathieu Roche: Contextual and Behavioural targeting are different techniques, which should work together, not against each other (the infamous “right person, right place” goal). What is at stake with the redefinition of identity for digital advertising is the ability to still do user-level targeting (or frequency capping / attribution for that matter) on the open web. If we can’t, I fear contextual targeting won’t be good enough for publishers to “win the game” against the walled gardens.

Tanzil Bukhari: Contextual targeting definitely has a role to play. But it can’t be the contextual targeting of yesteryear that focused on simple interest categories. With the help of ontological machine learning and semantic science, contextual targeting has the potential to be much more. An in-depth, accurate understanding of the content on the page, together with engagement signals, can help uncover what drives performance. Imagine contextual segments that are built around your core messages, and the actions you want people to take. It is this level of sophistication that makes contextual targeting interesting again.

Richard Sharp: In a cookie-less world, advertisers will still need to reach the right audience at the right time with the best message in brand safe environments. Targeting tactics not only have to perform, but they are also only as good as their ability to activate and scale. Given the evolution of IDs, you will have to leverage other data assets for insights and activation. Advertisers will need to deploy an individualised strategy that blends permissioned first-party data, anonymised data, and data that sits somewhere in between. Context is one of many de-identified data sets, and context alone will not be the end-all solution. However, the ability to link context with smarter data, and activate in a more intelligent and scaled fashion is key.

Q. How important is it for brands and publishers to build their own DMPs using first party data?

Ben Hancock: Bear in mind that most publishers and brands are not in the business of building ad tech, and the process is expensive, time consuming and – considering how quickly this market moves – it’s difficult to be certain that they would be able to create something that is better than what is currently out there. But saying that, I think there is opportunity potentially for the largest brands and publishers to build something (perhaps shared similar to what we’re seeing in the consortium space?) that is better suited to the new demands of a privacy first era for specific needs and would be economically viable due to the scale of these businesses

Q. Is it time for marketers and advertisers to rethink their KPIs?

Tanzil Bukhari: Efficient, measurable ROI will continue to be the goal for advertisers. How they achieve that, and the milestones or KPIs they need to get there, may shift. Despite the adjustment around cookies, people still want relevant and suitable content experiences. Marketers should ask themselves, how can we enhance targeting, while complying with evolving regulation and practices?

Q. So, what will be the currency in the future, will we go back to the past regarding contextual?

Mathieu Roche: By building a privacy-compliant infrastructure to identify users and enable “smart advertising” to power publishers’ businesses.

Q. In response to Mathieu’s point, not being able to prospect via first-party data by definition, can be achieved via the likes of Ozone Project?

Mathieu Roche: Any publisher can offer targeting segments across its properties, but buy-side targeting (ie. customer onboarding, third-party audience targeting), cross-site frequency capping, and attribution (ie. linking actions across publishers and advertisers sites) require a cross-domain ID to be performed at scale. Even within the “walls” of the Ozone Project.

Q. How does the loss of the cookie apply when looking at the in-app space with Device ID? Will this be the rise of fusing in-app and browsing identity?

Richard Sharp: Advertising on mobile apps is entirely executed using device identifiers referred to as mobile advertising IDs (MAIDs). The loss of the cookie has no direct impact on in-app advertising. While the ecosystem has struggled to find a scalable and accurate means to “fuse” in-app and browsing identity, the best solution here is via user authentication. That is why Oracle has built the capability to capture and activate consumer authentication across brand’s digital properties within the Oracle DMP.

Q. Comscore has recently illustrated that record numbers of users are migrating away from social platforms back to premium publishers for their news. How important is it for publishers now that don’t have paywalls to capitalise on this uptick in traffic to throw up some type of free wall in order to capture the first-party data they will need beyond the third-party cookie?

Ben Hancock: Firstly it’s great to see consumers are turning to trusted sources of respected news during these challenging times. Assessing the merits of having a paywall is a balancing act – yes there is value in subscriptions and paid for models but we’ve reached a place whereby consumers expect access for free. If a publisher installs a paywall they will lose a big chunk of their audience and need to ensure the subscription model will cover the lost advertising revenue. Publishers will still capture some first-party data without the use of paywalls and should incentivise users to keep coming back through a quality experience and content.

Richard Sharp: The question on whether publishers should implement “free walls” or “reg walls” now or at any time in the future is a difficult one because of the implications of the decision. It is a major business decision that should be made based on a publisher’s unique goals, advertiser client-base, and user-base. We feel any decision should be tested rigorously as the implementation of a “free wall” will undoubtedly have an impact on traffic volumes that will in turn impact advertising revenue. Alternative advertising solutions should also be considered and tested including on-site profiling (which can be done entirely using first party cookies) and contextual targeting.

Q. Are end-users taken into account? Or are we, the industry, thinking of the next best thing in our own interest?

Tanzil Bukhari: This is a fast-moving industry – both in terms of technology, and in terms of how consumers interact with content. Privacy and respect is necessary for sustainability. It’s not about the next best thing – it is about understanding the value exchange, and supporting a free, ad-supported Internet.

Sara Vincent: The first question any player in the industry should be asking themselves is, ‘What would be the best possible experience for the user?’ If your focus is on the user and what they actually want — as ours is — solutions built around deterministic, first-party data will likely become the clearest path forward. Whichever direction or form this ultimately takes, though, the proposition needs to have user trust and privacy at its core.

Q. What is your advice to advertisers in regards to their existing or upcoming decisions regarding adtech / martech systems that have been dependent on the current landscape?

Mathieu Roche: In our experience advertisers and agencies don’t fully understand their dependencies on third-party cookies for “basic” things like frequency capping and attribution. They should lean on their ad tech partners and ask the difficult questions, but also participate because a solution isn’t going to appear by magic, it needs to be built, tested and adopted by enough stakeholders to become a standard.

Tanzil Bukhari: DoubleVerify does not rely on cookies to detect fraud, deliver brand safety or measure viewability, therefore quality measurement solutions will most likely continue as before. There is a lot of interesting innovation happening around how we can use non-PII data to understand where consumers are in the buying process, and better predict performance. Advertisers should work with their ad-tech and mar-tech partners to understand how they are pivoting to address these issues.

Richard Sharp: Multiple strategies will need to be implemented to profile and target known/authenticated users, pseudonymised customers, and anonymous consumers. Adoption of a suite of solutions to address each user segment across the profile-ability spectrum (customers versus prospects across known/pseudonymous/anonymous identity) will be likely required. Advertisers will need to take an inventory of their own user-base and desired prospect targets across the spectrum of “profile-ability” to help shape their approach. We’ve seen customers of Oracle Data Cloud see the benefit of unlocking a suite of advertiser and marketer solutions that help them bridge the gap between Advertising and Marketing to deliver better consumer experiences and measure the impact of those efforts in this dynamic and evolving landscape.

Q. How do you convey the value exchange to users?

Sara Vincent: Publishers have a challenging task on their hands to not only identify what the value exchange is for their users, but how to maintain it. The good news is that users are still dedicated to consuming content that matters (perhaps now more than ever) and we’re confident that users will continue to put trust in the digital publications and brands who bring them value. It’s not about ‘conveying’ the value exchange, per se, it’s about delivering the content users are after in a trusted environment. Our role is to ensure that publishers are able to maintain addressable media and focus not on the technology (that’s our remit), but on the value exchange, enabling them to continue maintaining users’ trust.

Q. Do DSPs have a responsibility to be involved in this conversation, or will they just work with whatever the final solution may be?

Mathieu Roche: DSPs have a major role to play because adoption will help define what the final solution(s) will be. If they don’t join the conversation and test the various options, there will not be a solution.

Richard Sharp: DSPs will be a critical execution channel for programmatic Open Web advertising, which does still have a future in many cookie-less scenarios. Every player in the space has a voice in the conversation. Oracle has had numerous engaging and promising conversations with DSPs to offer advertisers unique solutions across both known and anonymous targeting.

Q. What about accountability in all of this? In terms of as tech: if Publishers have this one-to-one understanding, are SSPs then bound to adapt to every publisher’s data set and pass those signals along to DSPs-Advertisers?

Mathieu Roche: This is exactly what we want to avoid because it doesn’t scale. No publisher has the power to command custom adoption of its own taxonomy by all buyers & ad tech platforms. We need a standard currency for each publisher’s data asset to be available to buyers via ad tech platforms, at scale. This is how we can help publishers monetise these assets to their true value.

Q. The bigger problem is, even if the industry gets together, how is the management, maintenance and validation of IDs going to happen in a transparent manner?

Richard Sharp: This could be addressed by a few solves. One way is for a third-party, agnostic industry body to step in to provide the framework, if not the means to manage, maintain and validate any future ID space. The other way is for all players in the space to adhere to the strictest interpretation of global privacy laws and provide the mechanisms to easily surface and provide controls for consumers to manage their data and identity. Ultimately, it will probably be a bit of both.

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