a4 Advertising’s Approach to a Cookieless Environment

Google’s announcement that no more crumbs will fall from user browsers has been heralded by some as the death of the internet, or at least targeting based on personal information. It’s not the first browser to make such a decision, with Safari and Firefox announcing it years ago. Well before these announcements, a4 Advertising had already developed and implemented a solution that is not cookie-dependent. Our patented approach has been helping us deliver targeted campaigns for close to a decade, more on that in a minute.

Keep in mind that the announcement doesn’t mean that Google will stop collecting your data. Google will continue to capture first-party data for targeting on their platforms, where they generate over 80% of their ad revenue from their properties. Google will still track and target users on mobile devices, and still target ads based on user behaviors on Google platforms like Search and YouTube. The revenue and traffic for these platforms won’t be affected by the change, and this first-party data becomes even more valuable to advertisers as third-party providers react to the loss of cookie data.

Ad tech companies that rely on cookies for targeting and building identity graphs will have to find another way to target users. Google thinks it already has via Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which it labels as “privacy-first” and “interest-based” advertising technology. With this approach, advertising is delivered against 1,000 user cohorts rather than one-to-one users, which Google claims has effectively the same delivery accuracy, citing 95% conversions per dollar spent vs. 3rd party cookies.

While it remains to be seen if that claim holds true, DSPs are testing their own approach to adjusting to the loss of the cookie. The Trade Desk, whose stock price was down 30% at one point after Google’s news, has been trying to lead the charge with Unified ID 2.0, leveraging anonymized email addresses as a single point of uniqueness, an approach Google took a particular “privacy” swipe at.

Other strategies revolve around Similarity modeling based on data in the bid header (User-Agent, Content encoding, etc.), which creates a probabilistic Unique ID based on a digital fingerprint created by the uniqueness of all those header actions. This data is then augmented with known information about the publisher’s content to create an enriched form of contextual targeting. Leveraging this with first-party publisher data (think paywalls) creates a rich, cookieless environment that enhances probabilistic targeting with deterministic data.

At a4 Advertising, we continue to work with our DSP partners on their solutions as outlined above. However, we also continue to grow our direct relationships with publishers and partner ISPs to expand our Authenticated Households. This is the patented process we have been using for over a decade that allows the matching of anonymized IP addresses (the HomeID) to actual household addresses for deterministic delivery to over 50MM households. We then enrich this key graph identifier with well-known offline sources, providing rich data for our Commercial, Political, and Auto campaigns, both online and offline.

Rather than solely relying on cookies or the future of the process above, our Authenticated Households provide the core of our digital targeting that gives peace of mind by placing privacy concerns first and providing an accurate targeting environment for advertisers.

In summary, the DSP landscape is grappling with the best approach(es) to address the loss of the cookie. While the leading contenders face backlash with strategies like Unified ID2.0 or fingerprinting, a4 Advertising’s Authenticated Households still provide the greatest security and accuracy for your digital campaigns.

Kevin O’Reilly; Senior Vice President of Product, Data and Monetization for a4 Advertising

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