“There Is No Silver Bullet” to Replace Third-Party Cookies

In 2023, Google will withdraw support for third-party cookies in Chrome, the web‘s dominant browser. Apple now requires apps to get explicit consumer consent before they can use its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA).

Taken together, these events will impact the foundation of the digital advertising ecosystem, creating significant hurdles for advertisers and publishers who use these identifiers for a slew of functions, including ad targeting and personalization, monetization, attribution and frequency capping.

Sarah Rose, SVP of international digital operations at IPG‘s Kinesso, says the uncertainty created is a game-changer for advertisers she works with at Kinesso.

She leads a global data and platform organization that centralizes campaign execution for Kinesso‘s clients and IPG Mediabrands‘ agencies, including Universal McCann, Initiative, Rufus and Reprise. Kinesso helps marketers navigate their fragmented data and technology systems to understand their audiences and campaigns holistically.

“So here we are in this new world within the advertising industry, where brands really want to track their performance, ROI and return on ad spend,” Rose says. “And we are trying to figure all of this out from an agency perspective, from a technology perspective, while also ensuring data privacy.”

In the first of a two-part interview, CafeMedia spoke to Rose about how brands are preparing for these seismic changes, the future of measurement, and the many uncertainties that advertisers and agencies must navigate.

Do you feel like brands are prepared for Apple‘s and Google‘s changes? Is this something that really is on the radar?

A lot of them are holding back on developing their own internal solutions until they know where things are going to net out. They’re doing what they need to do now to track performance, and they’re waiting to see where Google and Apple will net out in 2023. They’re preparing their own platforms for first-party data activation, but there are also a lot of unknowns right now.

It feels like the adtech space has been in panic mode for the past year, and that doesn’t seem to be the case for brands.

There was supposed to be a 2021 initiative, and then it got pushed back to 2023 on the Google front, and that‘s why they‘re waiting.

Brands are like, ‘OK, well, Google is saying these things, but really what is it going to be?‘

Google is preparing for this aggregation of identity in buckets of folks in an anonymous way with the deprecation of third-party cookies and being able to track [consumers], and this FLoC proposal is what they‘re building out [as part of the Privacy Sandbox project]. However, in order to build FLoC, they need personal information — not personal identifiable information, but personal information such as email and IP addresses, location data and things that are actually more ‘identifiable‘ than the perspective of a third-party cookie.

Which is mainly provided by Google-owned properties?

Yes, exactly. It‘s a very dichotomous situation where even within Europe, they‘ve paused deploying the FLoC [Privacy] Sandbox proposal because it goes against GDPR rules to track that level of data. If you think about it, it‘s actually more identifiable than a third-party cookie.

What protects identity more — having this information and bucketing it or the third-party cookie? What are we really moving toward, and is it more privacy-oriented? I question it from a technology perspective.

It’s almost like marketing, where they can say there will be no individual targeting.

But there is.

Right. If a brand has a loyalty club program or its own first-party data, can they work with Google in a more targeted way, and could they use their data with anybody else?

Yes, they can. The Trade Desk has a really interesting solution and ID graph that is very forward-thinking. They’re doing a good job with Unified ID 2.0, which has the IAB stamp. LiveRamp is key to the industry because they have all of the email address certification solutions, so they’re key in doing some really cool things. And before the FLoC rollout, Google Ads Data Hub (ADH) had some really strong solutions. That‘s the Google ADH ID graphing, which was also very strong within the industry.

Does FLoC change anything with Ads Data Hub?

They are not giving a lot of details on that, so I can’t say. Since they announced FLoC a couple of months ago, they haven’t really indicated if they will be changing their strategy with the ADH technology solutions and tracking.

Who else is well positioned as first-party data becomes more important?

I think publisher data is going to become more valuable because it logs first-party interactions with logged-in users. That is a small percentage, but I think that will grow over time.

I think advertiser-specific solutions or brand-specific solutions that are white-labeled will be good, such as those logging interactions with the brand on an advertiser domain, which qualifies as a first-party cookie. It’s really about developing first-party cookie tracking elements, which include interaction with the brand or specific interactions with a product. All of that aggregation or a white-labeled solution for an advertiser-specific domain will be beneficial.

For instance, any walmart.com data is valuable for Walmart. E-commerce is sitting in a good place. Amazon is robustly building out their own solutions. They have their own advertising platform, they acquired Sizmek and they’re building out their own user data buckets.

Any data-driven tactic that‘s advertiser-specific or brand-specific will be a way of the future.

Do you feel like brands will be working with those walled gardens more as opposed to open exchanges?

I haven’t seen the perfect solution to the open web yet. We’ve really only had about a year and a half to figure this out.

There are siphoned solutions that can work together, platforms that can speak and work together, which will, in turn, develop that layer of martech to adtech activation.

Kinesso has a robust Kinesso ID solution because we have that Acxiom layer. But in terms of the industry overall, everyone‘s golden ticket is how do we help solve for user ID tracking across the ecosystem? I mentioned The Trade Desk‘s solution, and I‘ve seen smaller companies using it, but in all honesty, there is no silver bullet right now. And that‘s what we‘re all looking for.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.