3 ways publishers will go back to the future when the “cookiepocolypse” hits

By Mark Zohar


Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Third-party cookies have been the catalyst for programmatic advertising intended for ad serving and cross-site tracking since 1994. On the one hand, they’ve helped publishers track their Web site visitors, improve customer experiences, and target ads to segmented audiences. On the other, they’ve followed users around the Internet and logged their activity without knowledge or consent.

Now, the death of the third-party cookie is looming. Apple and Mozilla already blocked cookie tracking in their browsers. Firefox even announced the blocking of “supercookies,” a particularly unsavoury batch that are notoriously difficult for users to clear from their browsers. Chrome will be the last browser to disable third-party cookies in 2022 and transform how ad tracking and privacy work on the Internet forever.

As more browsers ban third-party cookies, publishers will need to rethink their audience targeting strategies.
As more browsers ban third-party cookies, publishers will need to rethink their audience targeting strategies.

We’ve dubbed this transformation the “cookiepocolypse” because it’s left publishers to figure out audience targeting and ad modeling without the assistance of third-party cookies for the first time in two decades. Chrome represents 66% of the global browser market, so you can imagine why media companies and publishers are scrambling to protect their profits.

In an ironic twist, publishers have to revert their business models to an earlier form that existed before 1994 to reclaim their audience and revenue opportunities.

Here are three ways publishers will go back to the future when “cookiepocolypse” hits:

  1. Publishers will personalise their ad targeting. Advertisers will no longer be able to target users across sites, something that was ordinary when third-party cookies were de rigueur. For example, over the last 20 years, someone who visited a mortgages Web site could easily be targeted by banks with premium ads. In the future, the banks will have to collect first-party data from consenting users to build a “known audience” to serve personalised ads to.
  2. Publishers will use first-party data to measure attribution. Publishers will no longer be able to rely on third-party data to measure attribution. Over the last 20 years, publishers had attribution worked into an analytical science that was wholly sophisticated within the third-party empire. In the future, publishers will have to collect, analyse, and leverage first-party data for marketing attribution by building a sizable audience that is truly proprietary.
  3. Publishers will progress away from programmatic ad revenue. In 2022, publishers will no longer be able to rely predominantly on programmatic advertising for revenue. Over the last 20 years, up to 75% of display ads and 50% of video ads were traded via programmatic methods. In the future, Google is predicting a 52% decrease in ad revenue for publishers once third-party cookies are killed by Chrome.

Preparing for the “cookiepocolypse”

Publishers can reclaim their audience and their revenue opportunity by building a proprietary high-resolution, first-party audience that can be targeted by advertisers and marketers based on contextual and behavioural signals.

By collecting, analysing, and leveraging first-party data, publishers can create channels and an audience that is truly proprietary. The publisher becomes the single best way to reach its audience. And the publisher also has the most powerful insights into what its audience will find relevant, meaningful, and engaging.

About Mark Zohar

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