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Despite the fact it feels like we’ve all just started 2022, it’s only days until the end of Q1. That’s another quarter closer to a digital advertising ecosystem without 3rd party cookies. While conversations are all talking about preparation and getting ‘ready’ for a cookieless future, there are two major considerations that just aren’t being discussed enough; the industry is far from ready and immediate opportunities are constantly being ignored. Let me explain.

The missing 40%

I watched a fantastic TED Talk video the other day by the late (and quite simply wonderful) Sir Ken Robinson in which he commented “innovation is hard because it means doing something that isn’t very easy; it means challenging what we take for granted”. I’d argue this is the primary reason why we’re not talking enough about the fact that time is running out for implementing alternatives to the 3rd party cookie. Simply put, as long as campaigns can be delivered in full using Chrome, we’re still taking cookies for granted. In the Ted Video, Sir Ken further comments; “the great problem for transformation is the tyranny of common sense; thinking that things can’t be done any other way as that’s how it’s always been done”.

What continues to surprise me, however, is the fact the industry dialogue is still talking about readiness and the ‘actions that are needed’ for a future without 3rd party cookies when we’re already waist deep in inventory pools that have been blocking 3rd party cookies for the past 4 years. That’s not a typo, the past 4 years! In some markets, the combined share of Safari and Firefox is greater than Chrome. On all of the impressions we’re able to monitor at Teads globally (and this is across the actions of 1.9BN people), the average missed opportunity is around 40% from Chrome and Firefox users, yet all eyes are still looking at Google because many can’t easily think of things being done any other way!

Not a question of when, but how

We move therefore need to question readiness. Are industry participants ready? In short, the answer is no. If we focus on publishers first, arguably the primary source of what’s available to advertisers to buy, a recent survey from Teads may help illustrate this point. Publishers believe – when asked to pick their primary initiatives for growth – that their focus for innovation and growth will come from contextual solutions (59%) and their own 1st party data (63%). Great if you are embracing contextual solutions and or predictive audiences built by machine learning and artificial intelligence. Adversely, the majority of publishers don’t have a strategy to get users to log-in (55%) for fear of disrupting the user experience and losing traffic and less than 20% have more than 2 out of 10 users logging-in today. Not so encouraging for those looking to adopt addressable identifier-based solutions.

Balance this supply conversation with areas of focus on demand. In February of this year, an eMarketer report (US Programmatic Digital Display Ad Spending 2022) suggests that the majority of advertisers and publishers are first and foremost looking to test ‘authenticated and or email solutions’ (63%) and, most positively embrace contextual solutions (52%). This said, the minority will be testing ‘cohorts or probabilistic modeling’ (at 33% and 28% respectively) which may well be misaligned with the timeline of what’s going to be available and when especially when advertisers themselves have to determine their own value exchange for getting the necessary permissions to continue to reach their consumers.

Now at this point, this article might seem negative toward an addressable future so I’d like to stress that I firmly believe that any consumer involvement in a value exchange to create that addressable connection is of huge importance. Important because it spans so much more than audience targeting, from measurement to planning and important because the consumer’s involvement is exactly what privacy advocates and technology providers are looking for as these changes are rolled out.

Update your digital priorities, today

What I’m really trying to convey is more of a reality check. A statement that says that while many solutions may have huge value, the question is one of timing, readiness and what can be achieved today, tomorrow and by the time the bell tolls on the demise of the 3rd party cookie.

AdTech should be making life as simple as possible for both advertisers and publishers to minimize the risk and maximize the opportunities associated with a cookieless future. I believe that, over time, there will be a usable share of traffic from unified identifiers yet at the same time, I also think that there will be a significant amount of audience volume derived from a publisher’s own 1st party site data. Audiences, I might add, that are going untargeted today due to the industry’s belief that things can’t be done any other way than with cookies.

If I could summarize this article in one statement it would be this; you need to be testing solutions now! You need to get comfortable with substitute alternatives for 3rd party cookies well before the end of this calendar year. Simply put, you cannot take for granted that there will be a like for like substitute for how you do things today so it’s time to accept and move forward.

AdTech should be making life as simple as possible for both advertisers and publishers to minimize the risk and maximize the opportunities associated with a cookieless future. I believe that, over time, there will be a usable share of traffic from unified identifiers yet at the same time, I also think that there will be a significant amount of audience volume derived from a publisher’s own 1st party site data. Audiences, I might add, that are going untargeted today due to the industry’s belief that things can’t be done any other way than with cookies.

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