Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Publishing: Tipping the scales in a post-cookie world

The dual challenges of increased privacy regulation and browsers phasing out third-party tracking cookies has left much of the industry at a loss as to what to replicate or replace them.

Publishers have been the first to feel the heat – ‘losing’ many of their known readers from Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox, whilst advertisers increasingly shifted spend to Google’s market-leading Chrome. Yet, that too, is phasing out cookies and the industry is at one: new solutions are required to ensure the advertising ecosystem remains fit for purpose.

Novatiq Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer Tanya Field outlines the current challenges: “Our publisher partners tell us ghost users [those who cannot be tracked or identified] are becoming a growing issue throughout the industry. Increasingly, consumers are visiting web pages and apps without logging in or passing any identifiable information. This makes it difficult for these users to be monetised and breaks the value exchange of premium publisher content for free in return for relevant advertising.”

Yet she believes that despite the initial pain, the industry will alight on better, more appropriate solutions that respect the consumer and give publishers and advertisers a boost. It’s time to reimagine an internet that is designed with transparency, trust and fairness in mind.
She says: “The challenge with the demise of third-party cookies is that the entire digital advertising industry has relied on them for targeting, ad activation and measurement. But, let’s be frank here, third-party cookies were never the best solution in the first place; they were just what was available so adopted wholesale. The opportunity now is to create something better.”

Tim Cronin, AAX Media’s VP of Sales, agrees. “A current problem is an over-dependence on cookie – so, of course cookie deprecation is problematic. However, I wonder why we over-engineered the solution to begin with.

“I think we placed too many expectations on digital publishers for delivering the right ad to the right person at the right time (a phrase I’ve come to hate). So, I’m hoping that the solutions for premium publishers, at least, would focus more on creating the best branding environments for advertisers and less on creating finite targeting segments.”

It requires a subtle shift in thinking, he says. Premium publishers should complement rather than compete against the digital giants.

“How can they win the direct marketing game against an opponent that has minimal costs, a massive user base, and unlimited data? The premium publishers, however, can win the branding game. If you’re premium—and you invest heavily in the production of original, quality content—your goal should not be to compete against Facebook for data and performance campaigns. Everyone has good data these days. But not everyone produces original, quality content. So, remain true to who you are: produce premium content and sell like you’re primetime.”

Steven Filler, UK Country Manager at ShowHeroes Group, which specialises in video content production, says that in his experience advertisers are happy to pay for quality. He says: “They understand that our investment in video content production and technology combined with the quality editorial environment demands a fair price, as long as their advertising delivers strong ROI.”

Increasingly, he adds, clicks as metrics have been exchanged for viewability and video completion when these advertisers measure ROI.

About time, too, says Field. “The main challenge – which has ultimately negatively impacted the entire industry, but particularly premium publishers – is that everyone got very comfortable with attempting to know everything they could about an individual, so they could then be targeted somewhere else at the cheapest price possible.

“This is a race to the bottom where everyone loses. Or even worse, comes second.

“We need to recognise that there is no longer a need to have a persistent, PII-compromising ID solution to be able to reach the right audience at the right time. We just need to know the audience is the same when we activate campaigns.”

The overwhelming message, it seems, is that data and technology can help pinpoint the audiences you want without needing to know who they are. Implicit targeting, as opposed to explicit ‘personalised’ messages that are intrusive and often two dimensional.