Microsoft, Xandr, Bayer Healthcare and LiveRamp: Preparing for the Cookieless Future Before It’s Too Late

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By Travis Clinger, SVP Addressability & Ecosystem, LiveRamp

Though the industry is still determining what the most viable alternatives to the third-party cookie will be, don’t let Chrome’s delay of cookie deprecation provide a false perception that we have a long time to figure it out. The reality is that cookie degradation is inevitable. The ecosystem should be preparing now, rather than waiting and having to scramble later.

Some of the most prominent names in the industry said as much at Advertising Week New York. In a panel LiveRamp hosted featuring Microsoft, Xandr and Bayer Healthcare, all agreed that having the runway to test, learn, optimize and improve has left each more confident that their identity strategies and consumer relationships will be stronger when cookies do finally meet their demise.

Joining me on stage to discuss the cookieless future was Chris Park, Senior Program Manager, Data and Identity at Microsoft; Amanda Tan, Senior Director, Product Management at Xandr; and Jeff Rasp, Head of Media and Digital Marketing Operations at Bayer Healthcare. Here’s what each had to say:

Across environments, including CTV, Safari, Firefox, Edge, and Apple, 40% of the internet is already cookieless today. From your point of view, what is the opportunity today to monetize authentications in this dual world of cookieless and Chrome?

Microsoft: Already, we’re seeing a clear shift toward first-party identifiers. As a publisher, our strategy is to ensure our supply is as addressable as possible. In our tests thus far, early indications show an improvement in overall CPMs. When cookies completely go away in 2023, we expect to see even better performance.

Xandr: Our initial KPIs with identity solutions have been promising: results like a 2-3x uplift in CPMs imply they have the potential to substantially help publishers who have strong consumer relationships. Complementing authenticated strategies with other advanced approaches will preserve marketer reach and measurement. The go-forward path should balance privacy, innovation, and publisher and marketer outcomes.

Bayer: We’re thankful to be on this journey now to know what we’re getting into before we’re forced to. This has been fortunate, as we’ve been able to test and better understand how the authenticated solutions perform and what’s different from traditional third-party cookie buys.

As we near the end of the year, there is still an inclination among some to wait until 2022 or even later to start preparing for the cookieless world. How should we rally the industry to start now?

Microsoft: We know enabling authenticated inventory improves revenue. The shift away from cookies is healthy for the web and the industry. Whatever we build, it needs to be centered around privacy, otherwise, we’ll end up facing the same issues the cookie brought upon us in a few years.

Xandr: The problem isn’t that cookies are going away一it’s about outcomes measurement. Marketers want to know how effective ad spend is to drive sales, and publishers want to manage yield and know they’re monetizing effectively.

Today, cookies allow us to make certain assumptions about KPIs, but this is a proxy for ROI. With more logged-in consumer inventory becoming available, we have an opportunity to be smarter about engaging consumers on both the marketer and publisher sides.

Rather than merely targeting individuals, we can cultivate longer-term relationships by explaining why consumers are sharing their data. We can be smarter about new proxies for measuring outcomes, leveraging strong signals from authenticated data.

Bayer: Leaning heavily into a first-party strategy, we’re shifting from running a third-party solution for attribution to running attribution within our platform across different channels, which is a very powerful and freeing capability. Being able to model ourselves and leverage authenticated inventory to do so gives us the ability to optimize at a much faster pace.

What do you expect the consumer narrative around data and privacy to be once cookies are gone?

Bayer: We take our responsibility to consumers very seriously. By getting ahead of this now, we can set expectations with our customers and be transparent about first-party data and how we’re using it. As marketers, we all have a responsibility to evolve the brand-consumer relationship into a dialogue.

Microsoft: As consumers get savvier about their data usage, it’s important to be upfront and explain a clear value exchange to earn individuals’ trust. It’s evident we’re heading toward a first-party, authenticated universe, but we must be careful not to inadvertently create a “walled garden effect” in the process. Creating a direct-to-consumer experience is highly valuable, but we still want to sustain an internet that is open and free.

Xandr: The consumer experience right now is that ads and products follow us around the internet, which can feel intrusive. Whatever we come up with as an industry, consumers should no longer feel that. Instead, consumers should have brand experiences that are meaningful and show the value of consumers sharing their data.

The takeaways are clear: the sooner solutions like LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution are implemented, the more time there will be to test and iterate, providing consumers with the valuable experience they expect. The brands, publishers, and platforms that succeed in establishing trusted, first-party consumer relationships now 一independent of cookies 一will improve the overall user experience, optimize yield and increase revenue or ROI.