Cookies for Targeted Digital Advertising
For the longest time, advertising cookies and digital advertising have been the best of friends, allowing for rich user profiles to be created to enable relevant ads targeting, personalization and measurement/attribution. Cookies, primarily third-party cookies, are essentially a plain vanilla file that are placed by advertisers to store information on users’ browsers about their interests and websites they have visited so that more relevant advertisements can be shown to the users or elsewhere after they have left the website. Such cookies information can go across websites and be shared with other advertisers to measure ads performance.
Death of the Great Advertising Cookies
In recent times, there have been greater awareness and much emphasis have been placed on data privacy especially with the enforcement of GDPR in Europe, CCPA in California/US, and other related privacy laws in numerous countries worldwide (learn about Knorex’s privacy policies and efforts). Apple, in particular, has significantly drummed up its effort in tightening privacy protection.
In a short span of 3 years, Apple has released a flurry of Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) versions (v1.0, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3) for its Safari Internet browser to address users’ privacy concerns by preventing cross-site tracking and completely removing the support for third-party cookies. 7-day expiration for first-party cookies and 1-day expiration for cookies set by link decoration are now the new norm. These measures have made it extremely difficult to track users, retarget them and attribute the conversions on Safari.
Google Chrome has been following the footstep of Safari by enforcing the SameSite tracking and has stopped sending third-party cookies in cross-site requests unless the cookies are secured and flagged using an Internet standard called SameSite (learn more about Google Chrome’s SameSite and here; and technical explanation about SameSite). Google also announced the removal of support for third-party cookies in 2 years’ time, triggering the Great Cookie demise countdown. Similar action was taken by Mozilla/Firefox browser.
Most recently, Apple announced new measures as part of its privacy protection in iOS 14 by making the mobile device identifier known as IDFA explicitly opt-in for all apps, sending reverberation across the mobile marketing sector. Apps will now need to seek users’ permission before the app can use the identifier for tracking purpose. This will cripple the way tracking is being done now as putting this explicit will make more and more users enable the “Ask App Not to Track” option, thus making it harder to track and attribute in iOS devices. Google will likely (have to) follow suit as what we have seen happened with Chome, and we expect a similar announcement for such measures in Android OS.
Impact on Digital Advertising Ecosystem
All these changes introduced by the different browsers and now including iOS, are creating a daunting task for AdTech vendors to perform the basic operation of attribution and ads targeting. These include:
- Third-party DMP data based on a cookie or digital ID will be obsolete and likely will have no relevance;
- The ability to attribute conversions will be extremely hard to achieve anymore or may not be supported at all;
- The ability to perform de-duplication across channels will be almost impossible;
- Incidentally, it will also mean more reliance on the Big Tech companies (AAFG – Amazon, Apple, Facebook & Google)) and further shore up their dominance in the industry and our daily lives;
- First-party data will gain momentum and AdTech vendors will have to work within the first-party data framework and evolve, which will likely lead to rising cost of integration and real-time targeting.
How is Knorex Addressing These Challenges?
These are extremely challenging headwind that the advertising industry is facing. Here at Knorex, we have been hard at work to develop various technologies and solutions to cope:
- Enabling first-party cookies to track and attribute: We implemented this solution to ensure that tracking is done on the website domain of the advertiser, i.e. on the website where the advertiser’s customers place their order for a product or a service. In other words, we will not be dropping our cookies (i.e. considered as a third-party cookies in this case) on the website/domain of the advertiser in the process of enabling tracking sales conversion on the advertiser’s website. Knorex tracker will only access the customer’s information via the advertiser’s website/domain and using Knorex proprietary technology to track users across website(s) and app(s). This will allow us to achieve the following:
- Compatibility with ITP 2.x requirement by Safari;
- Support SameSite cookies for Google Chrome browser;
- Ability to retarget users as well as the ability to track attribution.
- Server-to-Server (S2S) integration: Knorex has developed its proprietary technology to send user signals happening on the advertiser’s website through S2S integration with the advertiser. This will allow Knorex to help track users across the different advertising channels without dropping Knorex pixel into the advertiser’s website. The events that are track-eable include booking, purchases, registration, signups or any events occurring on the advertiser’s website(s) or mobile app installation, post-install events that happen after a user clicks on any Knorex ads. Contact Knorex for more details.
- Contextual targeting (or cookie-less targeting): Using Knorex proprietary technology called Knorex Lumina™ which is a contextual engine that Knorex has been developing over the last 10 years, enables our customers to target and show contextually relevant ads to a cohort of users reading articles with matching relevance/context to the campaign that an advertiser is running. Knorex Lumina now supports over 17 most popular languages in the world and counting. Such contextual features serve as additional data signals to our Knorex KAIROS AI/ML engine to enhance its relevance to reach the right audience or cohort. Already, we have observed strong improvement in performance in terms of CTR and CPC for campaigns running using our contextual targeting on a month-to-month basis. Right now, we are in our final leg of optimization on conversions (purchases, leads, in-App install, etc) to achieve our desired performance. This will serve as an alternative to cookie/digital ID based targeting and reduce our reliance on such mechanism.
- Partnering with identity vendors: We have also been working actively with third-party identity vendors such as LiveRamp, to be part of the ecosystem that will tap on a Universal ID to track users across different publisher’s websites/SSP and AdExchange. This together with our own solutions like (S2S Integration, First-party cookie support) will be able to provide good coverage when it comes to (re-)targeting users, and conversions attribution. We believe this will also improve the efficiency of different stakeholders in terms of the cost of infrastructure as well as targeting capabilities.
- Google Privacy Sandbox project: Google Privacy Sandbox project is an initiative by Google to make the web more private while still enabling tracking and measurement. TURTLEDOVE is one of the proposed frameworks that we are actively checking out. The framework enables on-device auction to choose from the most relevant ads (based on user’s prior interest or page context) rather than server-side auction. This project is still under-going iterations and is in early stage development. As this is developed by Google Chrome, this can act as a defacto standard for targeting. However, we foresee two risks here:
- this is primarily a single-vendor solution for the entire advertising ecosystem
- the project is in its infancy and our industry has been lamenting of its slow progress and would be a tall order to meet the 2-year timeline initially announced by Google Chrome.
Reach out to us if you would like to find out more about Knorex solutions.