Interactive Advertising Bureau
11 February 2021

Member Guest Blog with Xandr - The Evolving Landscape of Programmatic Advertising

The demise of third-party cookies has changed the outlook for programmatic advertising. Bringing both challenges and opportunities with it. In our member guest post, we caught up with Paul Farrow, Manager, Solutions Consulting at Xandr to get his thoughts on the evolving landscape of programmatic advertising and to see where he sees it going from here.

As Manager, Solutions Consulting at Xandr, Dr Paul Farrow supports major buyers and sellers in Central Europe to foster their programmatic partnerships and grow their businesses.  Since 2018 one of his main goals has been to ensure that Publishers understand and correctly implement the TCF framework, thereby maintaining privacy standards whilst strengthening the advertising ecosystem.  

As a biologist, I am accustomed to the concept of evolution. But even I have been astonished by the level of disruption and development in the world of programmatic advertising since joining the industry just over two years ago.

The third-party cookie is likely to disappear in the next couple of years, as browsers continue to introduce and expand controls around how and in what form information about their users can be made available. This will have, and is already having, a profound effect.

Privacy frameworks, too, are beginning to appear across the globe. The Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF) has already been successfully implemented across Europe, and we are now beginning to see similar solutions in Canada, Thailand, and Brazil on the horizon (among others). These frameworks all work to enable and facilitate interoperability and accountability across the world-wide-web.

These tools and changes will help publishers and advertisers in their mission to ensure the privacy of their customers at every stage of their web journey, and we are all excited about the developments browsers are now making to their logic, as well as the frameworks which many of our clients at Xandr have worked incredibly hard to implement, as we enter this new age.

At Xandr, we are working hard to ensure that our processes - and the processes of our partners - react and adapt to meet the challenges of the new environment and to make sure the privacy demands of our clients are always front and center.

Simple Ads

We know that the removal of the third-party cookie and an increase in privacy frameworks will change the way clients interact with their audiences. That's why we are building out a suite of products to enhance our capabilities around the following use-cases:

  1. No Consent - the user has not granted consent for the processing of their personal data. Cookies cannot be read/used, and geolocation is limited. Roughly 20% of users do not grant consent, and this is an upward trend.
  2. Cookies unavailable - the browser blocks third-party cookies from being set or accessed. Around 20% of impressions come from browsers where third-party cookies are blocked by default.
  3. Device ID unavailable - iOS14 (for example) will restrict access to the device ID (IDFA) when it is released. This is likely to have dramatic consequences in the next year or so.

This suite of products will be known collectively as Simple Ads and will address some of the challenges faced in a privacy-first ecosystem. 

ID-less audiences

For example, Xandr will continue to process and market impressions that do not contain cookies or device IDs. We recognise that every impression has value, and as we move into the new privacy-first era, publishers should not be penalised for putting the privacy of their users first, but rewarded for doing so. 

We also know that, from a buy-side perspective, this new landscape offers opportunities to adopt other methods of reaching the same, or similar, audiences. Contextual and viewability addressing remain perfectly good options for advertisers to address their customers, and the careful curation of marketplaces is on the rise.


On the other hand, publishers are aware that they must pay closer attention to what is happening on their properties. They know that they are the gatekeepers between their users and their partners, and they have a responsibility to control the privacy of every pixel. It is not enough to simply implement a Consent Management Platform (CMP); publishers want to know which of their partners are setting third-party cookies and - in the best case - help those partners act in accordance with legislation. With this in mind, Xandr is building out controls (as part of Simple Ads) that will allow publishers to choose exactly how restrictive to be and at what level to enforce the privacy laws of their land.

Universal Identifiers

In the past five years, we have seen an explosion of Identity solutions hit the market. At first, these identifiers were based primarily on third-party cookies and the creation of cross-party user graphs. However, reliance upon cookies is looking increasingly ill-advised, and as we edge closer to the loss of third-party cookies, the emergence of identifiers based on user logins (NetID, LiveRamp) as well as the creation of identity consortiums and initiatives (Unified ID 2.0, Project Rearc) are becoming increasingly important.

Privacy Sandbox

Also in development is the Privacy Sandbox, whose mission is to “Create a thriving web ecosystem that is respectful of users and private by default.” At present, the Privacy Sandbox is a collection of ideas (some easier to imagine than others) revolving around the removal of access to personal data for ad tech and other companies. It is unclear which of these ideas will be implemented, less so the timeline of their implementation. But over the next couple of years, browsers will develop in a direction that places them as the gatekeepers to our information. 

What now?

Juggling these complementary and contradictory considerations is the principal challenge for ad tech companies moving into the privacy-first generation. And given the finite resources each company has at its disposal, as well as the fierce market competition, the stakes could not be higher.

But as the industry focuses on individual solutions, we must realise that the creation of a private internet cannot obstruct the requirements of an open internet and that cross-collaboration and communication are more important than they have ever been if we are to protect the user and the publisher within the same system.

Finding the right balance is key. But having watched the successful adoption and implementation of the TCF across Europe, and as I listen to the results coming from, for example, W3C and Project Rearc, I am optimistic about our ability to work together, and I am sure this industry will evolve into something far more fit for purpose in the coming months and years.


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