Marketing

Why authenticated traffic offers life beyond third-party cookies

April 19, 2021  |   Martin Wallace

After years of over-reliance on third-party cookies, their impending demise has forced brands and publishers to reassess the ways in which they reach consumers. As a result, more emphasis has been placed on verified and authenticated first-party data as a means to open up new ways of working.

This presents an opportunity for publishers to highlight the value of their inventories and unlock new revenue streams which, in turn, will enable marketers to maximise ad revenue and addressability. For brands, harnessing this data will mean they are able to continue delivering data-driven, personalised experiences, but with a closer relationship to both the publisher and the consumer.

The opportunity for publishers

“For any publisher, it’s such a good opportunity to look at your datasets and have a think about what it is that makes you unique or what you might have that other publishers or media owners might not have. So, that allows you to maybe think about how you can potentially position yourself in a better way in the future,” says Alex Kirby, Global Head of Programmatic and Commercial Data at Dennis Publishing, speaking during a recent LiveRamp webinar about ‘how authenticated data benefits both publishers and marketers’.

“If you’re using third-party data to power some of your advertising, have a think about how you’re going to replace that, have a think about what first-party data you might be able to leverage… As we move towards authentication, it allows us to speak to our audience a bit more clearly – to understand what they want and then be able to give that to them in a more accessible way.”

The emergence of solutions like LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS) sets the industry on course to defining what one-to-one marketing – “which is so critical for online marketing for every advertiser” – will look like in 2022 and beyond, according to Mediamath’s EMEA General Manager, Viktor Zawadzki.

The importance of scale

The biggest concern for publishers and brands alike is the reduction in scale that will occur once third-party cookies are no more. But how important is this scale in reality?

Dennis’ Kirby believes “there’s a slight obsession with scale” in the industry and feels that it’s always better to have less, higher quality data than vast amounts of data that you don’t use. 

“You are never going to get a critical mass of your audience or a very high percentage of your audience authenticating. At the moment, I don’t think that attitudes on the internet are there… Even if we weren’t having a conversation around identity, I think having a better and deeper relationship with your users and offering an authentication strategy is a benefit,” says Kirby.

“Is it important to scale? I’d love to know as much as I can about as many people as possible – I’d be very happy if we got to 20% of authenticated traffic on a lot of our brands. You can use that base to model things out about people, you can use that understanding to try and amplify the activity for the rest of your datasets and your audiences.”

This sentiment is shared by LiveRamp’s UK Head of Publishers, Ryan Afshar, who agrees that any amount of authenticated traffic at a publisher’s disposal is of value.

“There’s this expectation that 90% of a publisher’s traffic should be authenticated,” he says. “At LiveRamp, we see that if you can get to 30% that’s a really good number to get to. Even if you’re starting at two, three, four per cent, the value of those audiences and that engagement is really interesting.”

Focus on the value exchange

At the same time, when asking individuals to authenticate themselves and their data, publishers have to be “really mindful about introducing more friction”, Chloe Grutchfield, SVP of Product at Sourcepoint, points out. 

“Users have what we call ‘modal fatigue’,” she says. “I think publishers are going to have to be smart about how they approach all those modes and how they ensure that they’re not causing so much friction that users bounce and that’s a lost opportunity to make revenue.”

Nonetheless, the chance is evidently there for publishers to build out their first-party datasets and deepen their relationships with both their audiences and advertisers. 

So, all things said, the ‘death of the cookie’ may not be such a bad thing after all. 

“We’re not necessarily going to get another opportunity to look at what we’re doing and who benefits from this system,” concludes Kirby.