IAB Europe’s post-third party cookie guide: What publishers need to know

IAB Europe, the European industry association for digital advertising, has just released its Guide to the Post-Third-Party Cookie Era, to prepare brands, agencies and publishers for the post-third-party cookie advertising ecosystem in 2022.

The guide, which has been developed by IAB Europe’s Programmatic Trading Committee, provides foundational background into the current use of digital advertising cookies, the contributing factors to their cessation and an overview of solutions available.

Contributors to the Guide, including BBC Global News, CNN International, Omnicom and Oracle, amongst others, have collaborated to provide a view from across the industry on the impact these changes will have in areas including digital advertising execution, measurement, and ad verification.

For publishers, the end of third-party cookies is a significant challenge. Last August, Google’s own study claimed publisher revenue decreased 52% on impressions without cookies, with news publishers seeing an even bigger decline (62%). Although this figure has been challenged – research by University of Minnesota, University of California, Irvine, and Carnegie Mellon University suggests publishers only get about 4% more revenue for an ad impression that has a cookie enabled than for one that doesn’t – the end of third-party cookies nevertheless demands that publishers transition their ad revenue models.

Chair of the IAB Europe Programmatic Trading Committee David Goddard, comments, “We should stop attempting to ‘solve’ for the loss of third-party cookies, but instead recognise that these changes are predicated on the direction of privacy laws globally…..it is essential that all parts of the value-chain work together to provide solutions that work across the whole ecosystem and keeping users at the centre of this conversation to build trust.”

IAB Europe’s key recommendations for publishers include:

  • Transitioning business models by prioritising first-party data through subscriptions and/or registered users. This, of course, is more easily said than done – Digiday found last year that 63% of publishers are facing challenges converting audiences to a paid subscription product. This is balanced by other data which suggests that free ‘registration walls’ are almost just as effective as subscription paywalls in obtaining first-party user data.
  • Creating Mobile Advertising IDs: With mobile ad spend in the UK alone accounting for 80% of all programmatic digital display advertising, mobile advertising IDs (MAID) are set to become a de facto standard moving forward. MAIDs offer a stable, safe and reliable identifier of mobile usage as well as a permanent way to meet compliance and privacy obligations. MAIDs also offer location data, giving brands a more complete picture of their customers and opening up the possibilities of more location-specific digital campaigns.
  • Shared IDs: Publishers have been working together to develop common and shared practices around inventory sharing and audience segments, with the Ozone Project and Pangea Alliance being two standout examples. ID Consortiums and Shared ID solutions are only set to gather pace, but the challenge for publishers will be to know which ones to throw their weight behind. Prebid.org, an organization of ad tech industry leaders that works to provide open-sourced solutions, includes a User ID module as a core part of their programmatic header bidding software. This solution – used by multiple ID vendors such as DigiTrust, BritePool, LiveRamp IdentityLink, Criteo ID for Exchanges, and others – gives publishers far more flexibility in selecting which vendors they want to work with.
  • Contextual targeting: This is set to expand considerably in a cookie-less era as it does not depend on a user’s browser behaviour. Instead it focuses squarely on the context of a publisher’s content and its suitability for any given ad. Publishers who work with context partners to accurately segment their content will be at a considerable advantage moving forwards, particularly with regards to brand safety. Potential partners include GumGumNearIntegral Ad SciencePeer39, and others.

For publishers that implement the strategies above, the advantages are clear – not only will it create synergy with ad tech vendors and streamline programmatic processes, it will expand the opportunities to attract more ad revenue. Publishers need to get up-to-speed now with how they use cookies moving forwards, particularly with regards to their monetization strategies.

The issue is made more pressing because despite the world being in the grip of a pandemic, Google currently has no plans to extend the 2022 deadline for the phase-out of third-party cookies in Chrome, although it does not rule out revisiting the topic “as the situation evolves”.

For publishers looking for further guidance on the issue, the IAB and other trade bodies are, at this juncture, the best ports of call – not least because they are in the best position to help influence the industry developments currently taking shape.