November 12, 2020

A Cookieless Future: Why All the Fuss Around Cookies?

cookieless future graphic

In August/September 2020, Intouch Media, in conjunction with TV[R]EV, conducted an online survey to gauge how respondents felt about TV advertising during the pandemic in general and pharmaceutical advertising in particular. The sample size (79 participants) was ample for us to get both a range of opinions and consistency in our results. In addition to this survey, we also interviewed executives and key industry players from several media companies: Samba TV, Vizio, The Trade Desk, VideoAmp, Crossix, MedData Group and LiveRamp. The result was our recently released whitepaper, Future State: The New Media Landscape, which covered four topics: automatic content recognition, addressable television, privacy and personalization, and the cookieless future of advertising. Following is an excerpt from the whitepaper. 

The Fate of the Cookie
For years, third-party tracking cookies were the backbone of the internet, as consumers grew to expect and demand increasing levels of personalization from brands. In 2018, however, the Global Data Protection Regulation or GDPR, became the beacon for a new level of privacy and transparency on the internet. Even before GDPR and newer U.S. regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), an increasing number of people had begun to install ad blockers; almost 30% of internet users did so in 2018. Further, new ad types such as mobile and over-the-top (i.e., content that is provided via internet-enabled devices like smart TVs) which didn’t rely on third-party cookies for tracking, were increasing in popularity.

Third-party cookies would still be widely used and abused if not for Google’s announcement detailing their plan to discontinue third-party cookie tracking on their popular Chrome browser. Apple already began phasing out cookies from their Safari browser starting in 2017 with Intelligent Tracking Prevention protocol (ITP). Marketers are now scrambling to develop strategies that address both targeting and measurement in a world without third-party tracking cookies.

Getting Creative for Improved Personalization
In this new cookieless world, marketers will have to get increasingly creative in order to develop the same type of highly personalized ads that third-party tracking cookies so seamlessly allowed for and consumers have grown accustomed to. In our survey with TV[R]EV, we found more than 50% of respondents said they would rather have more personalization as opposed to privacy. That said, there are myriad solutions percolating — some new, some legacy — that will allow for some level of personalization and audience tracking.

One of those methods is shared ID tracking. Instead of having hundreds of thousands of cookies on a publisher’s site from an amalgam of third parties tracking consumers across the internet, a shared ID, or singular identifier, is attached to each consumer. One major benefit of a shared ID is that a consumer can easily and transparently decide to opt in or out of tracking. Furthermore, because shared IDs are managed by the individual publishers, they are effectively first-party data, as opposed to third-party tracking cookies, which can follow users indefinitely from site to site.

In order to mirror the flexibility and nimbleness of the third-party tracking cookie, some companies like ID5, or the nonprofit DigiTrust, are attempting to take the first-party data from an individual publisher stored on their first-party cookie, then marry that data with other publishers’ data in order to create a type of uniform or universal shared ID. But there are reports that Google may block anything that even resembles a third-party cookie.

LiveRamp (a SaaS-based platform that connects offline data to online touch points, for marketing purposes) has developed an identity resolution product that it calls an “authenticated traffic solution,” which is essentially designed to live on publishers’ sites and LiveRamp’s IdentityLink database. This database connects the email address to an amalgam of other data sources to identify the individual consumer, as opposed to merely a faceless browser, as is the case with third-party cookies. The problem is that this only works for consumers who have a known email address in the database, not anonymous users.

As the industry races to find a solution that can adequately replace the third-party cookie, many are looking backward at contextual advertising to fill the gap in the interim. Contextual advertising involves placements of relevant ads around related content; so, a treatment for allergy would appear next to content specific to allergies, for example.

Pharma, naturally, has strict guidelines around how a patient’s data can be used. Although contextual ads have proven effective in the healthcare industry for years, the degree of targeting and personalization is limited, especially when compared with solutions powered by third-party cookies.

Trusted industry stalwart the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is currently developing a solution as part of their project Rearc, which is billed as an industry collaboration to re-architect digital marketing. According to a February 2020 IAB blog post, “the default future state of digital media will be 100% anonymous, non-addressable to third-party vendors that support advertising-funded media and services today.” That is, unless one of the solutions above is adopted, or the IAB and their partners are successful in implementing a universal ID, and then getting users of that ID to agree to those standards and guidelines.

Steps Pharma Can Take Now
For pharma, much like every other industry, it is anyone’s guess which solution will gain traction. There’s even the potential for the adoption of multiple solutions. That said, there are steps pharma marketers can take now to set themselves up for success in the cookieless future. One is the development of a digital management platform (DMP). DMPs gather data from a variety of owned properties such as web and mobile sites, email, apps and CRM (in the cookieless future this is likely first-party, owned data). This data is then used to gain a more accurate view of key consumers/patients, taking into consideration their behaviors, interests and locations. A DMP can be viewed as the marriage of an amalgam of data sources, audience curation and campaign measurement. Identity management (or identity graph) solutions can also be married with a DMP to add even more flexibility, enriching data and allowing for the construction of lookalike models. Solutions like better cultivation and management of first-party data, expanded partnerships and DMPs are all things pharma should be actively considering right now.

Get the Complete Whitepaper

For more insights on the cookieless future and the evolving media landscape, including automatic content recognition, addressable TV, and privacy versus personalization, download Intouch’s new whitepaper, Future State: The New Media Landscape today!