Adapting to the New Cookieless reality: An Expert Update for Publishers

Welcome to a new piece in Yieldbird’s series, drawing from our own research into the significant shifts in the programmatic advertising landscape, specifically the move away from third-party cookies. This evolution is crucial for publishers due to increased privacy demands and stricter rules. Third-party cookies have long played a key role in how ads are targeted, measured, and tailored, but their phase-out requires publishers to rethink their strategies. Our series, informed by Yieldbird’s internal research, aims to navigate publishers through this changing terrain, providing insights and tactics for success in a privacy-focused world.

The Importance of First-Party Data

With less reliance on third-party cookies, first-party data is becoming crucial. It’s valuable because it’s more accurate and comes directly from your audience, with their permission. For publishers, it’s time to focus on collecting high-quality first-party data. This means being transparent about what data you’re collecting and why, and using this data to create a more engaging experience for your visitors.

As we navigate through the transition away from third-party cookies, it’s essential to understand the timeline that outlines the major milestones and phases. This timeline helps visualize the shift towards a more privacy-focused online advertising ecosystem, marking key periods of testing, adaptation, and final implementation of new technologies.

Understanding Privacy Sandbox

For website owners, it’s important to get familiar with how Privacy Sandbox works and what it means for the future of online advertising. This involves exploring new tools and technologies that allow for personalization in a privacy-focused way.

Google has introduced several initiatives under the Privacy Sandbox umbrella. Among these initiatives, the Topics API and Protected Audience API stand out as key components of this new era.

Topics API: This approach enables a browser to determine a user’s interests based on their web browsing activity. Rather than tracking an individual across the internet, it identifies broad interest areas such as “sports” or “cooking.” This helps in delivering ads that are relevant to the user’s interests without infringing on their privacy.

Protected Audience API: Formerly known as FLEDGE, this tool also seeks to deliver relevant advertising by categorizing users into “interest groups” based on the types of sites they visit. It aims to show ads that the user is likely to find engaging or useful, without the need for tracking individual browsing history.

Adapting to this new environment requires a willingness to experiment and learn. Publishers must be agile, ready to test out Privacy Sandbox’s alternatives, and other privacy-preserving technologies as they become available. Engaging actively during the standstill phase will be key to developing effective strategies that minimize disruption to ad operations and maintain, if not grow their ad revenues.

For publishers managing several websites under one brand, the concept of Related Websites has been introduced. This setup allows some cookies to be shared between these websites, almost like they are from third parties. This method allows browsers to grant very limited access to third-party cookies for designated purposes, balancing privacy concerns with functional necessity. Specifically, Chrome utilizes these declared relationships to make informed decisions on when to permit or restrict a site’s access to cookies in a third-party context. For site authors looking to leverage this capability, it’s essential to submit their domains to a set, following the detailed submission guidelines available on GitHub. 

Based on a test conducted by one of our partners, it was observed that for the 0.75% of all Chrome users who no longer had access to third-party cookies but had the Topics API enabled, there was a decrease in Revenue Per Thousand Impressions (RPM) by 35%. However, in a promising turn of events, the win rate for Adx and open bidding simultaneously saw an increase of +4%. 

GAM: Identity insights

Google Ad Manager (GAM) has introduced a useful feature that aids publishers in comprehending the nuances of this transition. This feature offers publishers a detailed breakdown of the current landscape of identifiers, which is crucial for tailoring advertising strategies amidst growing privacy concerns.

This feature meticulously categorizes identifiers into distinct statuses, providing a few options available to publishers. It differentiates between:

  • Third-party ID status: This indicates whether third-party cookies or device IDs are available for use in targeting. Given the ongoing deprecation of third-party cookies, understanding their availability becomes essential for publishers looking to adjust their strategies.
  • PPID status: PPIDs, or Publisher Provided Identifiers, are first-party identifiers directly sent with the ad request by Ad Manager 360 publishers. This segment allows publishers to see how often these identifiers are being utilized, offering insights into the extent to which first-party data is driving addressability.
  • First-party ID status: This involves identifiers confined to a publisher’s own sites or apps, such as “same app key” on iOS or _gads on the web. These serve as fallback mechanisms when third-party cookies are unavailable. It’s crucial to note that this category excludes PPIDs, providing a clear distinction between different types of first-party identifiers.

Additionally, the feature distinguishes between “Active” and “Restricted” statuses for these identifiers. “Active” implies that the IDs were available for personalization, thereby enabling targeted advertising. In contrast, “Restricted” signifies that while the IDs were present, their use for personalization was limited, reflecting the constraints imposed by privacy regulations or browser settings.

Google also added:”Topics status,” which reports whether the ad request included topics for targeted advertising, with values indicating whether topics were provided, empty, or not available due to lack of support or other reasons. Furthermore, “Publisher Provided Signals” offer publishers the capability to enrich ad requests with IAB taxonomy categories, enhancing targeting precision. Other dimensions such as “PPID presence” and “User identifier status” provide further insights into the availability and utilization of identifiers.

In conclusion, the end of third-party cookies signals a new era for digital publishing, marked by a huge focus on privacy and data protection. By embracing first-party data, engaging with emerging technologies, and fostering transparency and trust with their audience, publishers can navigate these changes successfully. The journey ahead is complex, but with the right strategies and a proactive approach, publishers can generate new opportunities for growth in a privacy-first world.

Bartłomiej Oprządek

Bartłomiej Oprządek

Regional Growth Director

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