IAB UK: Identity Targeting in the Post-Cookie World

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For years, third-party cookies have served as the foundation of digital advertising. Recently, there’s been much debate around their sustainability as regulators as industry bodies focus in on consumer privacy. While still seen as foundational, third-party cookies are not always used in a way that is compatible with the attributes of consumer privacy. Because of this, their lasting power is in question, and their contribution to the future of our industry is diminishing. We are fast approaching the post-cookie era, and the implications are manifold.

The loss of third-party cookies is undeniably challenging in the short-term, as it requires all players in the ecosystem to shift their behaviour in terms of the solutions they build. If this behaviour does not change, and alternatives to third-party cookies are not embraced, ad spend across the open web will decrease and budgets will undoubtedly drop (as we saw in Germany last year). However, in the long-term, the loss of cookies will push our industry in the positive direction of a more people-based, deterministic advertising model – ultimately leading to more precise results for marketers and brands, and boosted revenue for publishers.

This is our chance, as an industry, to bring people-based marketing to the open, trusted web (e.g the premium publishers that consumers turn to for the content they trust). By crafting common identifiers, we can bring people-based marketing to the open web, allowing us to unlock digital advertising budgets and support a diverse, multi-faceted digital ecosystem. ,. As we work to create these solutions, we must keep user privacy and user experience top of mind.

The impact on user privacy

Largely, the shift away from third-party cookies is the browsers’ reaction to users’ increased concerns around data privacy. In past decades, these concerns did not exist — as recently as 15 years ago we didn’t even have smartphones. Now, however, users’ data is being collected everywhere, stored in different locations, and used to power opaque algorithms, yet consumers have little or no insight into how they work and no control over how they operate.

User data, and the application of it into algorithms (both advertising and content-based), has been placed underneath a magnifying glass in recent years. Legislation like The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has limited corporations’ capacity to collect and utilise consumers’ data without their express content. As mentioned above, browsers have taken a stand, making decisions, such as restricting the use of third-party cookies, to ensure user privacy is being protected and prioritised.

As we move into the post-cookie era, it is imperative we collectively craft solutions with user privacy top of mind, always ensuring users are educated on the value exchange between themselves and the sites where they are consuming content. We must move into a world where advertisers can still reach key audiences while remaining a vital source of revenue to publishers, but also one where customers are still protected and thus trusting of digital environments.

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