Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The NDA Publishing Roundtable: A bright future beckons in the post-cookie world

NDA recently partnered with LiveRamp to hold a roundtable looking at the deprecation of third-party cookies from the point of view of the publisher. The roundtable featured insights from Jo Holdaway, Chief Data & Marketing Officer at Independent Digital News and Media; Eleanor Marshall, Commercial Data Director at Global; Sherzod Rizaev, Vice President of Commercial Operations at Minute Media; Jane Brady, Head of Brand Partnerships at Mumsnet; Sarah Lavery, Global Programmatic & Operations Director at IDG; and LiveRamp’s Head of Publishers, UK, Ryan Afshar.

“The digital ad industry is going through some fundamental changes and perhaps more change than any time in its history. The increased restrictions around consumer personal data, combined with the deprecation of cookies and mobile IDs, has meant that brands and publishers are really reassessing the relationships they have with their ad tech partners and the ecosystem as a whole,” opened LiveRamp’s Afshar. 

Earlier this year, LiveRamp surveyed 250 UK marketing professionals to get their views on the changes being experienced by the digital advertising industry. One of the key findings was that 78% of marketers believe that the withdrawal of third-party cookies will have a positive impact on their advertising strategy – an encouraging sign for publishers. 

The road to success

Publishers could potentially see themselves falling behind as the changes make targeting and measurement more difficult across digital campaigns. However, the general consensus is that, after a rocky start, things will be positive in the long run.

“I think it could be a bit bumpy to begin with but, on the whole, should lead to a positive outcome,” said Global’s Marshall. “Even in preparation for the demise of third-party cookies, we’re bolstering first-party in a way that we haven’t done before, which is of significantly higher value anyway. So, although scale is going to take a bit of an impact, we can build up in terms of quality and value, and then it will even itself out or end up for the better.

“We’re much more focused on why our first-party data is more valuable, or more unique, than anything else in the market. We’re not just focused on supplementing what we had in the past in the background, but actually thinking how we can fundamentally change what our data story is, and tell it much more from a first-party data perspective.”

Mumsnet’s Brady views the deprecation of third-party cookies as “a big opportunity for us when it comes to direct conversations” – something that the popular website for parents is further developing as a revenue stream.

“As the defacto experts on our own data, we can bring unique insights from our active community  and ensure a good fit between who brands are trying to reach and if we are able to reach them. So that brings our unique proposition to the forefront” said Brady. However, at the same time, she’s aware that this approach could lead to some testing moments with clients.

“It requires clients who are open to new ways of working, as existing strategies will need to be re-evaluated. With that comes testing, learning and iterating and ultimately partnering together to see results that drive business outcomes. So, there are going to be some pivotal moments with certain clients. We’ll win some, and we might lose others.”

Despite the opportunities presented by the deprecation of third-party cookies, The Independent’s Holdaway is looking at things a little bit more cautiously. Like the rest of the roundtable participants, she expects “minimal revenue risk” but, with this, she is concerned by the possibility of digital ad spend being pushed into other media.

“I wouldn’t assume that the level of ad spend would stay the same. There are other ways of spending that revenue,” explained Holdaway. “I think, as an industry, we need to be very cognizant of that and try to protect the level of ad spend into digital, and try to prevent it going into other media. Just because people have been spending at a level historically doesn’t mean that they will do that moving forward, if it’s a little bit more difficult for them to achieve their target CPAs etc. So, I’m a little bit worried about that and the assumptions that it is all going to be fine. But, from a revenue perspective, the delay means we can do a lot more work in our revenue risk analysis and our modelling.”

A much-needed extension

On the topic of Google delaying the deprecation of the Chrome third-party cookie, the roundtable was in agreement that the extension was the right thing to do. 

“I’d like to think that we are prepared, but I don’t think anyone could be fully prepared already,” said Minute Media’s Rizaev. “Getting an extension is a good thing for publishers. It gives us more time to work with our partners and complete the conversations with the ID providers. 

“We are definitely thinking of being within prebid and working with multiple ID providers. We have audiences across the globe in 13 different languages, within multiple categories, multiple properties, that we own. And we work with a very large network of sites, where we provide services. We are thinking of overarching preparations that we can offer with each and every part of the business.”

Nonetheless, IDG’s Lavery questioned the focus on whether publishers are ready for the deprecation of third-party cookies, pointing to a lack of preparation on the buy side as being the reason for Google’s decision to delay. 

“We can’t claim to be fully ready until we know what those buying strategies and tools are going to mean for us,” said Lavery. “And then it depends on what your revenue composition looks like. If you have significant open auction revenues, how are those tools going to allow brands to continue to buy?

“We can say that Google doesn’t represent the entire ecosystem which, of course, is true. But the industry doesn’t tend to really start taking things seriously – or at scale at least – until Google does. I fear that we’re going to basically have the buy side only start paying attention again a few months before that deadline comes up. And that’s concerning, because, if we don’t have a clear path to working together, it’s not going to be good for either side.”