Can Collaboration Fill the Void Left by Third-Party Cookies and IDFA?

While many consider 2020 the year of identifier deprecation for third-party cookies and mobile ad IDs, the dismantling of identifiers truly began in 2012 with Safari’s move to block third-party cookies by default. And it’s surprising it took eight years for the next two big dominos to fall.

Epsilon took the foreshadowing seriously and started planning aggressively for the future. Knowing then that cookies and device IDs wouldn’t be a long-term source of consumer identity or personalization, Epsilon pivoted to building first-party data relationships with advertisers and publishers.

Now, with Chrome’s third-party cookies and Apple’s IDFA on the way out, and Google’s AAID expected to follow suit, the future is now.

If cookies and IDFA are not the future … what is?

Many questions remain unanswered, so a few thought leaders from across the advertising ecosystem organized a virtual roundtable to discuss the challenges and trends being seen and heard on the ground.

I was lucky to be joined by Tina Moffett, senior analyst at Forrester, Jay Glogovsky, senior director of revenue analytics and operations at The New York Times and Helen Lin, Chief Digital Officer at Publicis Media. Together, the group dug into the big questions on marketers’ minds, like:

  • Were third-party cookies ever that great in the first place?
  • Should marketers embrace first-party data?
  • How do you now identify consumers to personalize their journeys and give them great experiences?
  • How can marketers future-proof their identity strategies?
  • How will these changes impact overall marketing performance, attribution and measurement?

First-party data, contextual and the critical role of the publisher

Helen kicked off the conversation echoing what all of us are feeling: “These policy updates are going to force major changes in how we work and require collaboration across our ecosystem that hasn’t happened before.”

“[Identifier deprecation] will completely upend the advertising ecosystem,” Tina concurred. “We anticipate that the future will look like a heavier dependency on first-party data to do a lot of targeting and a basis for measurement, as well as taking a lot of first-party data insights for personalization efforts.”  

The group all agreed that first-party relationships are the key going forward, and that marketers need to think not in terms of identifiers, but in terms of people. Collaboration with publishers will be vital. Brands need to be able to lean in on a strong publisher network and work with partners who can sync with publishers’ logins and registration data. That connection to first-party data is now essential. 

Jay wholeheartedly embraced this notion. “[The New York Times] is fortunate to be a premium publisher, and we have incredible engaging relationships with our users, and they want to tell us about themselves. Over two years ago we started embracing this contextual world and first-party audience capabilities.”

“[Brands are] relying on their partners to provide really great data,” Tina added. “The advertiser/publisher relationship is a good example of that—I expect publishers to really step up their game with a lot of advanced measurement and insights because advertisers are going to expect it.”

Helen agreed, “If we are liberated from [cookies], the optimal design of measurement would be on business outcomes.”

Performance transparency and a focus on business outcomes will be crucial moving forward.

Through the chaos, new collaboration must emerge

Tina shared how cookies have always been troublesome, and Helen agreed: “Cookies were never that great at identifying people or personalization anyway, because it was so fragmented,” Helen commented.

Mobile IDs such as IDFA may have been more stable than cookies, but it doesn’t help to dwell on the past because they won’t be a reliable option in the future.

Let’s not forget, these changes are largely being driven by consumer demands for privacy, and every part of the marketing ecosystem needs to respect that. The identity solution of the future must be built on privacy and security from the ground up. Any brand would agree that it’s the respect their customers deserve.

On Sept. 14, The Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM), an association in which Epsilon participates alongside Publicis Media, issued an open letter to Apple and Tim Cook. It was an urgent ask for better collaboration with Apple during the extension to comply with the new IDFA rules.

There is a strong incentive for all marketers to collaborate in a respectful and privacy-centric way to enable effective and efficient advertising. This collaboration is the only way to achieve the right balance that is considerate of advertisers, publishers, ad tech partners and most importantly, consumers.

To experience the full roundtable conversation, be sure to watch the video above.