Media Buyers Should Start Preparing for a World Without Cookies


Since the GDPR came into effect in the UK last year, a “commercial as usual” air appears to have prevailed among the public sector with many of them profoundly uncertain about how to target digital audiences without using private information.

But the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has focused on ad tech in latest weeks and how it handles private data that makes ‘ maintain calm and carry on ‘ appears to be a less feasible alternative. So right now my recommendation to media buyers is: begin preparing for a cookie-free globe.

The ICO raised severe concerns about compliance in the cookie-based real-time bidding (RTB) scheme in its report on June 30 and gave the sector notice for improvement. If it wasn’t difficult enough, there is the further development of the fact that browsers, including Mozilla and Safari, are not ready to continue with the tracking of cookies.

So even if the ICO satisfies itself that the ad tech industry is using cookies responsibly, steps are being taken by the dominant players to stop them.

Cookieless targeting – is that even possible?

For more than two decades, the programmatic ecosystem has been fuelled by personal data and cookies, and it will be difficult to imagine doing business in any other way for many newcomers to the industry.

But as the cookie crumbles, machine learning offers a whole new range of targeting possibilities that are compliant, cookie-free and providing large-scale high-impact campaigns. Moreover, they effectively deliver better brand performance outcomes, better publisher returns, and better end-user experiences.

In fact, the solution has been right in front of our eyes all the while, while traditional media buyers have been chasing audiences based on historical activity or running against pre-defined contextually relevant websites for years, important insights have been left on the table.

Contextual re-engineered

These audience insights stem from the consumption of real-time content, learned by analyzing the content on the page when advertisements are served, and proved to educate brands a enormous quantity about what drives new audiences to want to hear from them. Moreover, these insights can be used by fusing this contextual data with strong AI algorithms to intelligently scale campaigns at the ideal time to discover fresh and meaningful audiences.

We call it’ mindset targeting;’ others like the New York Times call it’ motivation targeting’-both are comparable iterations of this kind of flexible, adaptive, expansive contextual technology that is willing to substitute the cookie. This targeting style is not based on private information; it retains privacy, safeguards brand conditions and enhances the exchange between the brand and user in the correct locations and in the correct moment.

The Washington Post has just announced its own version, Zeus-the recent contextual AI-driven program from a significant US publisher whose arrival in a nation that does not yet have serious information legislation is even more thrilling. So you could deduce that the brilliant minds at these top titles still see this as the best way forward, regardless of compliance.

Content, not cookie, is king

Indeed, these premium publishers are most likely to benefit as the pendulum swings back to contextual signals, as algorithms like ours often place the greatest value on wealthy long-form content. And study* demonstrates that high-quality ad commitment content that keeps individuals on a website for longer is the natural environment.This is the founding principle of collectives of editors such as the Ozone Project, which seeks to restore authority to publishers ‘ hands, thus, as commercial director Danny Spears said: “restore their sovereignty”

So in time, the new wave of contextual targeting techniques will hopefully tackle a clutch of sector problems: information compliance, browser functionality, and brand security ; and ultimately drive a revenue U-turn back to a moment when content, not cookies, was king.


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