When the time comes to say goodbye to third-party data, Verizon Media’s Iván Markman notes that advertisers and publishers will have to quickly adopt new solutions to bridge the identity gap across digital channels and deliver meaningful revenue.

The online advertising industry is gearing up for a fundamental reset in a post-cookie world.

For years, the industry had relied on third-party cookies to support ad delivery, reporting and targeting. However, a combination of shifting consumer privacy preferences, changing legislation and the phasing out of third-party cookies by leading browsers has fast-tracked us to a cookie-less future – a world where we will need to rethink alternative, privacy-centric identity solutions to manage and reach audiences online.

Across the board, advertisers and publishers will quickly need to adopt new solutions that can bridge the identity gap across digital channels and deliver meaningful revenue — this is while honouring privacy preferences and maintaining relevant and useful consumer experiences.

Meaningful efforts at identity solutions will need to strike the right balance to ensure the survival of the “free web” that consumers are accustomed to. At the end of the day, ads are crucial to the life of the internet. The sustainability of the free web will be severely impacted if publishers aren’t able to maintain monetisation.

Also, in the bigger picture, people are now spending more time online – accelerated by the pandemic – resulting in a bigger digital representation as part of a customer’s journey.

Yet with so much on the line, only one in ten marketers and publishers in Singapore currently have a sustainable identity solution in place. It is clear brands and marketers will have to urgently act and evaluate progressive solutions to be discoverable at the moment, when it matters to today’s digitally aware, privacy-conscious consumer.

Leading players globally have already made a start towards building identity solutions for a cookie-less future. What direction are we headed in? Here is how identity resolution is being reimagined in the digital landscape.

Creating direct relationships with consumers

First-party data acquisition and users with logged-in authentication will become even more valuable, especially in APAC where cross-device use is prevalent. Consent and transparency will be key going forward. To lay the groundwork, brands and businesses need to prioritise building direct relationships with their audiences and leverage first-party data.

A common misconception among marketers is that users are averse to ads. While being inundated with a barrage of irrelevant advertisements beside offensive content can negatively impact user experience, research finds users are actually willing to engage with brands that can provide them with personalised, relevant information and value to their lives.

A study by Verizon Media shows that 88% of respondents realise the value of personalised ads, naming qualities such as “utility”, “relevance” and “interesting” campaigns as top benefits.

This points to one thing: there is a sweet spot for a win-win exchange between brands and consumers. Users are willing to reward transparent and trustworthy brands with their own data, as well as heightened engagement. In turn, brands will be able to provide these users with relevant and personalised experiences. This comes with users’ expectations that brands will honour their privacy preferences and use their data for good.

First-party data will be core to identity in the post-cookie landscape. Players that have built an identity graph using a diversity of owned, consent-based, cross-channel, first-party data will be in the position to enable marketers to lean into new and alternative identity, targeting and measurement solutions.

Sustainable solutions for a new era of identity

In a cookie-less world, the growing reliance on first-party data will create a new battleground for the largest tech companies, with a growing divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. The “haves”, or first-party data ecosystems that have amassed a massive number of logged-in users, will not be vulnerable to the crumbling cookie, while the “have-nots” – smaller brands and publishers who are collecting cookies without any logged-in authentication – will be at a disadvantage.

However, given how the post-cookie ecosystem is evolving, no single, monopolistic solution will dominate. This will be a world where open-source and proprietary data will live side by side.

Identity will be differentiated by direct consumer consent and association to many deterministic signals that can be shared in a secure, privacy-centric way. Sustainable, “open” solutions are already emerging to offer effective alternatives to “closed” systems. Such solutions are delivering the robust first-party data advantages of more closed ecosystems, while extending across the open web, giving advertisers and publishers options that deliver with transparency, but also flexibility built in.

We are also seeing development across ID-less audience solutions, which are privacy safe. Next-gen contextual audience targeting – based on contextual, real-time signals and publicly available data – will be able to enable core audience targeting capabilities such as demo, interest, income, lookalike and predictive in a privacy-safe manner, without depending on any identity. In a cookie-less realm, contextual targeting can help marketers reach their intended audiences where identity cannot be resolved.

As brands begin to dip their toes into the water and try out new identity solutions, we will also see more collaboration and interoperability across the industry to ensure identity matching in a privacy-centric manner to support the whole ecosystem.

While brands and marketers race to adapt to evolving industry standards, competition will further drive adtech providers to develop innovative and efficient solutions that will replace third-party cookies and leverage first-party data.

As we continue to test and validate these solutions, new ideas could be just what we need to propel the industry forward – an opportunity for stakeholders to collaborate on a better internet that respects consumer privacy and rebuilds consumer relationships based on trust.