Are you truly prepared for the cookie-less world?

Nielsen unveiled its ID resolution system last week that will support cross-media measurement, including digital, in a cookie-less world. This comes ten months after Google first announced that it will phase out third-party cookies by 2022. According to Nielsen, its ID resolution system comprises ecosystem connectivity, machine learning models and Nielsen ID. Additionally, it will also work with The Trade Desk and the industry on Unified ID 2.0, an open and interoperable ID built on hashed and encrypted email addresses.

This move is in a bid to reconcile various first party IDs and replace third party cookies across the digital ecosystem. Besides Nielsen, Unified ID 2.0 has also received support from other adtech firms in the industry including PubMatic, Magnite, Criteo and LiveRamp. Unified ID 2.0 was created by The Trade Desk to help companies prepare for a cookie-less world. The Trade Desk said that the latest ID framework will be built from hashed and encrypted email addresses, while remaining open and ubiquitious, and at the same time ensuring consumer privacy and transparency.

Given that Safari and Firefox both announced that they are removing third-party tracking cookies in 2017 and 2018 respectively, Google's move might not be a new one. However, it is safe to say that Google's announcement rang alarm bells because more than 60% of users are on Chrome. According to web traffic analysis company Statcounter, Google Chrome's market share stands at 64%. 

During a recent panel discussion at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Digital Marketing Asia 2020 virtual conference moderated by Wunderman Thompson's former head of data and analytics Ben Wightman (pictured top right), Mediacorp's VP of digital sales, Jennifer Chase (pictured top left), said whether brands are targeting, retargeting or even attributing, they are still largely dependent on third party data. As such, the issue of a cookie-less world has now become "a real concern" and "no one is prepared for a cookie-less world".

To create a sustainable data strategy that does not rely on third-party data, Chase said brands need to audit how they are currently collecting data and if they are doing so themselves.

Look at the dependencies you have got on your third-party data. Moving ahead, you have to think about what your first-party data strategy is.

She added that brands should look at what they need and work with various partners in the industry to build it. At the same time, brands should also be on the lookout for partners in the ecosystem that can help them enrich the data that they have in the long-term.

"When we have discussions with some of our advertisers, we are really drilling from our side here the different customer audience segments. We tell clients the type of data we have, as well as how and what we can do from a data sharing point of view," she said.

Like Nielsen and The Trade Desk, Mediacorp launched its own universal ad ID two years ago and having plenty of first-party data allowed it to move from a cookie-based to a people-based solution, Chase explained. The types of first-party data it had accrued include inferred data and declared data such as single sign on. According to Chase, some clients have sought to enrich their third-party data with Mediacorp's first-party data.

"For example, clients tell us that they want a segment that consumes a certain type of content on our platform. That's when we talk about data sharing to enrich the segments that our clients have," she said. Agencies as a whole need to recognise that the time to look at clients' first-party data starts now," she added.

Besides acting as consultants for clients, having a semblance of a unified data view is something that an agency can value added to, Kimberly-Clark's (KCC) Asia Pacific media lead Sebastian Cruz said during the panel. While the journey in navigating a cookie-less world might be a challenging one, KCC is not in it alone as its agency partners worldwide can help the company adapt to changes, such as GDPR compliance and activating first-party data sets, Cruz said.

"At the end of the day, I would expect them to fully crack and synchronise the data with a Google ID and a Facebook ID that is cross-shared, for example. Realistically speaking, [cross-sharing] won't happen between Google and Facebook but having a semblance of a unified data view is something an agency can add value to," he explained.

Building a treasure trove of first-party data

Meanwhile, as companies and agencies scramble to find a solution to third-party cookies, Emirati real estate company Emaar is placing more emphasis on first-party data. Shaily Verma (pictured bottom left), Emaar's head of data and marketing analytics, said this is done by developing proper data management platforms, getting contextual segmentation of customer, as well as understanding Internet behaviour.

"There will be more reliance on first-party data but contextual targeting in terms of effective customer identification, that will eventually become the norm moving forward," she added.

That said, digital marketing involves a mix of channels and Verma said the company is still spending some of its marketing dollars on walled gardens to build its data pool. "Digital marketing is having the right mix of all the channels. Being able to capture a 360 degree of users and nurture them is important for any marketing team these days, especially when users get easily distracted with smaller things. Hence, it is popular now to have the right channel mix and utilise it properly to get the highest return on investment," she explained.

Similarly, KCC has also embraced the value of first-party data. Cruz said its thinking about how the cookie-less world will evolve stems from its China business.

In China, we have stopped talking about cookies three to four years ago. Everything shifted to device IDs, persistent and deterministic data and the value of first-party data.

According to him, the key players in China such as Tencent and Alibaba have persistent IDs across the entire media mix in the country. And for KCC, it has equally recognised the value of having first-party data and are currently exploring on different platforms that focus on cookie-less technology.

However, Cruz said at the end of the day, brands should go back to what fundamentally makes sense for them. "You need to go back to what makes sense for you fundamentally from a first-party point of view and build infrastructure for that. One key thing to think about if you acquiring first-party data in China and India with billions of people, for consumer products that would go mass, is whether you need to acquire as much [first-party data]. That is the key thing that varies for every advertisers," he explained.

Getting buy-in from publishers

While there are efforts within the industry such as the Unified ID 2.0 to help companies in the cookie-less world, the true test lies in the effectiveness of those efforts when they eventually roll out. "I think it looks good on paper but in terms of progress and how it will roll out, that is the key thing to watch," Cruz said. 

The complexity of these up and coming solutions such as Unified ID 2.0 is getting buy-in and support from publishers, and Cruz believes this to be the ultimate challenge. At the end of the day, it's all about the value equation, he said. Agreeing with him on the value exchange is Mediacorp's Chase, who said when it drives a single sign-on for its platform, there has to be a benefit for consumers in order for them to give Mediacorp the data. This can come in the form of a seamless experience or even a loyalty programme by Mediacorp named meREWARDS which it incorporates to double down on the single sign on. "For advertisers, you have to drive declared data. It is all about the value exchange and how it benefits end users. That is how we are going about it," she explained.

Meanwhile, Emaar's Verma said  the issue of addressability and the possible solutions to tackle the cookie-less space will be driven by platforms. She cited Google's Privacy Sandbox as an example, which aims to replace the functionality served by third-party cookies with privacy-conscious methods.

"What I think is this will be more driven from the platform side. For example, Google is providing a Privacy Sandbox. If clients and advertisers are not using first-party cookies, then this will be another solution," she said.

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