[Podcast] Part 1: The Slow Death of the Cookie (and what to do instead)

In recent years, the advertising landscape has undergone a significant shift, with the impending departure of cookies playing a pivotal role. Long regarded as essential tools for digital advertisers, cookies have been the backbone of targeted advertising, providing valuable data about user behavior and preferences. However, growing concerns over privacy and data protection have prompted widespread changes in the way online advertising operates.

As internet users demand greater control over their personal information, major web browsers and regulatory bodies have taken decisive steps to phase out or limit the use of cookies. This shift has sparked a profound transformation in the advertising industry, challenging marketers to explore new strategies and technologies to reach their audiences effectively. In this rapidly evolving landscape, the days of relying on cookies for advertising are fading away, giving rise to a new era of privacy-conscious, consumer-centric marketing approaches.

So, what do advertisers need to do to prepare? Steven Goldberg, VP of North American Publishers at LiveRamp, and Todd Dziedzic, SVP of Digital & Analytics at Porch Group Media join Movers & Shakers host, Luci Rainey to discuss.

[Podcast] Part 1: The Slow Death of the Cookie (and what to do instead)


Speakers

Speaker
Steven Goldberg
VP, North American Publishers
LiveRamp

Speaker
Todd Dziedzic
SVP, Digital & Analytics
Porch Group Media

Host
Luci Rainey
Former Marketing Executive
Comcast & PODS


*The following transcription has been adapted from The Slow Death of the Cookie (and what to do instead).

LUCI

Welcome everyone to Movers & Shakers. The invention of the cookie, meaning the digital cookie – and not the delicious toll house cookie – dates back to 1992.

And its technology led to ultimately, the growth of the digital advertising business, which in a 30-year period, according to Forbes, grew to over $600 billion. This is now a $600 billion business, largely in part to the invention of the cookie. And when privacy concerns from consumers kicked in, suddenly the lifeblood of the business became a risk.

Some digital publishers followed quickly to protect consumer privacy and give customers choice, while others, namely Google, have been holding onto that final nail in the cookie coffin.

Today, we have two amazing guests, Stephen Goldberg, VP of North American Publishers at Live Ramp, and Todd Dziedizic, Senior Vice President of Digital Analytics at Porch Group Media, who is the sponsor of movers and shakers to really walk us through this issue of the cookie and its slow death. Welcome you, two.

Now, as we go through today’s session, you’ll see these two overall, as I mentioned, addressed the death of the cookie from two different angles. Steve will represent publishers and Todd, brands or advertisers. Both groups have a stake in these changes, and we’re going to talk about solutions today, for those of you listening in and watching, to further ensure you are prepared for these changes. As that seems to be the name of the game to be prepared as possible. Steve, let’s start with you. What is Live Ramp, and what is your role there?

STEVE

Yeah, thank you for having us, I’m really excited to be here. As she mentioned, my name is Steven Goldberg. I run the authenticated traffic solution here at LiveRamp, targeted towards our publishing community.

Live Ramp, for those who are not familiar, is really a data collaboration platform that really sees itself as the bridge in connecting a lot of the ecosystem that, makes everything in this ecosystem work. Whether it’s DSPs, SSPs, as publishers we want to connect those all to advertisers and brands and make sure that the ecosystem can continue, as you mentioned, in this, in this future, cookie-less world.

LUCI

Great. And Todd, same for you. What is Porch Group Media and your role there, as well?

TODD

Hello! Porch Group Media, we are a division of Porch.com, which is kind of a software as a service company.

And what the media arm does is help brands introduce brands to the consumers that the Porch software helps identify.

So a good example is software for home inspectors, right?

So, as that software gets used by inspection and home inspectors across the US, they will license or sign up for our software to run the front-end backend of their offices. That allows us to identify consumers on a name and address basis, who are in the process of the move.

And that activity of selling one house and buying another and moving into that new house makes those consumers very attractive prospects to many brands across the US, and our job is to help introduce those brands to those consumers.

LUCI

Thank you, appreciate that. And thank you both for making time today to be movers and shakers. Let’s talk first about the relationship between the publisher and the advertiser or brands and the consumer.

Steven, what does a cookie-less world look like, and how far are we into this cookie-less world?

STEVE

Yeah, it’s funny, because, as we were discussing a lot of this around cookies, we at Live Ramp really consider a publisher. And when we speak to publishers, not the cookies are officially dead, but they really should be, and have been preparing for, the death of the cookie, for many years. You know, there’s a lot of, obviously, headlines in the marketplace about Chrome still having cookies, and whether or not they kick the can down the road is really irrelevant to us and our efforts in the marketplace. Because when you look at cookies in general, the majority of people’s time spent is already cookie-less, right? So Chrome, although it does have a decent percentage of users when you look at Safari, Firefox, and Edge, have all been cookie-less for many years at this point in time.

When you look at the mobile app ecosystem, the majority of that is cookie-less. Even on Chrome, if you’re on an iPhone, which a good percentage of the population is, you’re already cookie-less. CTV, which is obviously garnering a lot of news and hype and a lot of dollars, is also cookie-less. So when you look at, what a publisher should be thinking about today, they should be, if they’re not already thinking, how to grow their business in this cookie-less world, because we are already there.

LUCI

That’s great.

Would you say that a partial cookie-less world has caused authentication to decline or are publishers finding new methods to ensure authentication?

STEVE

Yeah, so just by way of background, so everybody understands, authentication comes in many different shapes and sizes. For us at Live Ramp, authentication is an e-mail, right? That is what we consider and what we hold true as it relates to overall authentication.

And the reality is, is that with the death of the cookie, and Chrome finally eliminating it, it’s really forced a lot of the publishers to focus on authentication in general, and how to grow their overall authentication. Most open web publishers, which a lot of people spend a lot of time on, do not necessarily have the luxury like some of the walled gardens in that all of their users are allowed yet. However, there are many sites out there that people believe provide enough value; they provide their e-mail address to those folks, whether it be to receive a newsletter, or to view additional content, and some of them are even paying customers of those open web publishers. 

So we certainly have seen an increase in overall authentication across the open web with the inevitable death of the cookie. Because these publishers need to focus on making sure that they can continue to target the users and provide a good user experience for their users, even without the cookie.

LUCI

Todd, I know Porch Group Media also builds their audiences off of an e-mail, you know, infrastructure. Can you tell me why that’s important to look at it in terms of solving really this identification issue, audience issue? Can you share that with us?

TODD

Yeah, it’s similar approaches as Steven mentioned. Our opinion had always been to brands if you’re identifying an audience as a prospect audience, for example, and you’re going to spend and advertise against that audience, it’s best to then know that audience on the individual level and match the sales to that audience so you can truly measure and decide if you’re overspending, under spending, and how to optimize that spend.

So we had been able to use the tagline that we provide audiences of people, versus audiences of anatomist identifiers, like cookies.

And so, it’s dovetailing on what Steve was saying, that publishers and advertisers, already kind of thought about those being distinct and different authenticated and non-authenticated, sort of by default, right?

Some of the walled gardens or the social media apps had these big value propositions to consumers to always be logged in.

And they always offer, they always sold those ad spaces to advertisers at a premium.

And in return, offered a lot of benefits that you get from understanding the consumer behind that ad, or the consumer that was reached by that ad.

And so as the cookies have kind of started to deprecate and bigger push on publishers who don’t have that same sort of, authentication rates and developing more solutions and getting more of their traffic into the authenticated space, now allows advertisers to think about what they used to think as display programmatic display, which may be combined both kinds of traffic and thinking about, hey, this is an authenticated ad unit, similar to the way some of those social media walled garden apps are. And I think as they start thinking about that differently, that lines up with what we do at Porch Group Media, which is to find that audience based on who they are e-mail, name, address, phone number, those sorts of sticky, persistent identifiers, and reach them at that same level of authentication helps make a very valuable campaign for a brand.

STEVE

Yeah, I would just add one last thing and say that, to that point the value of the walled gardens is that it’s always been that people-based approach, and with authentication, it gives all of the open web publishers the same ability to have that people-based approach in the open web.

And similarly, it gives advertisers the ability to target people, the same way that we do in the walled gardens now in the open web as well.

LUCI

That’s great, in doing my research, I somewhat garden that a diversified approach works best.

We have Steve here to educate us on leveraging a premier identity solution, and Todd to explain why first-party data is important. It’s not really, in the new world, not an “or” approach. It’s an “and”. I mean, that’s what I’m seeing in the research that I’ve done on this topic. You know, Todd, can you talk to us a little bit more? I think you started to get into this, answering the last question about, why in this new world, leveraging first-party data is so important.

TODD

Right. And exactly, the key “aha” was, first-party data, specifically, if it’s transaction-oriented, so you have that, and matching that to your spend, can help you optimize and grow.

And then, also, importantly, take away the sales portion of it, but if you can identify your consumers, whether they have transactions or not, then you can really control the reach and frequency in the authenticated system, that you can’t really in the same degree, in the unauthenticated system.

And I’m with you and there, there’ll be purpose, there’ll be strong reasons for both, right? There will always be this need for, broad brand awareness may be very high funnel. And some of those mass impressions at a lower cost or unauthenticated traffic will always be valuable. But then there’ll be more of those brands that need to rely on to deliver the growth that they plan for.

And I think authenticated addressability has always been central to those themes.

LUCI

And Steve, having a specific identifier that can be leveraged across those, publishers, now seems even more important than, before… I mean Live Ramp wasn’t just birthed yesterday. You’ve been around for a while, right? And even before this cookie issue came up, Live Ramp was a very successful company in kind of making this translation. 

But now, it’s really, there’s this, this position of having that identifier, and leveraging a data collaboration platform is even becoming more important to be able to execute digital advertising across publishers. Tell us a little bit more about that.

STEVE

Yeah, absolutely. You know, authentication, as I was mentioning before, is really important for publishers to be able to both maximize the revenue that they see from advertising, but also for advertisers to get the ROI that they’ve seen historically through cookies. You know, we feel and we’ve proven in a lot of the studies that we’ve done, an authenticated user far outweighs the cookie user in terms of both on the CPM side that a publisher will receive, but also on the return on investment and an advertiser would see, so the statistics are there. The challenge for a lot of the publishers right now is how they grow their overall authentication.

If you asked any publisher today if would they rather have 100% authenticated users or 10% authenticated users, they’d obviously opt for 100% right? The challenge for a lot of these publishers is, how they get there. We don’t believe that any publisher on the open web can assume 100% authentication like the walled gardens. But they certainly can grow substantially from the single-digit percentages that a lot of publishers have, to double-digit percentages pretty easily through a couple of proven strategies in how to communicate and collaborate with the users that value, you know, the interaction between their sites. So, we’re seeing the results proved pretty quickly. And what we’re trying to do is educate the community on your point earlier. They’re going to have multiple strategies, right?

Authentication for the open web is not ever going to be 100% of the publisher’s users. So we want to make sure that they understand what the benefits of authentication is, and what they can do with the non-authenticated traffic, as well, because it’s still going to be a decent chunk of a lot of people’s businesses.

But we also want to make sure that they have the right data to talk internally at the publisher, to make sure that they have a strategy for growing that overall authentication. And that’s what, you know, my team does day in and day out, with a lot of the biggest publishers or the biggest open web publishers in the world on a day in and day out basis.

LUCI

Thank you. Todd, if a diversified approach protects the brands the most, and scale is one of the bigger issues to solve, how can you educate the folks who have joined us today on brands? Maximizing what I would call match rate – how you match your desired target consumer, to where you’re showing the ads or vice versa. How do you ensure a match rate? What are methods to increase your match rate? And we know retargeting may not be as reliable as it once was if users have rejected cookies or you’re in iOS where you’re more vulnerable to decline cookies even though they might be a more valuable user if you can find them. Share with the folks joining us today, how you really ensure that match rate is maximized if you’re a brand who’s joined us today. What should they do?

TODD

Right, so it goes on both you know Steve’s efforts and publishers to invest in those experiences that give consumers who are on their properties, a reason to log in.

And then, from an advertiser on their first-party data, it’s understanding that really getting those identity elements on all aspects of their consumers, whether or not they’ve purchased, right? So, for example, I think this kind of led to a little bit to the rise of the Retail Media Network, which is a different topic. But you think about those e-commerce brands, where it’s sort of this media network kind of resurgence started, it was because they were easy.

You know, if you’re going to get something shipped to you, your name and address are something that consumers are usually willing to provide. And then even beyond that, there are strategies about if you’re just shopping, but not browsing, maybe kind of on that fence, just sharing a location or some elements of your identity, improve that experience, right? Like, where’s your nearest store, the inventory at that nearest store?

From a scale perspective, we started with the media network, with owned property ad units to certain advertisers, then connecting that based on that address to off-property publishers, who also have it.

And so I think you see some of that sort of the scale is there is just by the, the players who have that sort of authenticated relationship with the person on the browser or hub, or they’re interacting with the company of connecting together. Right? So that from a single platform, as an advertiser, you can say, hey, I want to reach these consumers on a name and address basis, here are my customers, and you work with partners who are linked together on that identity and you can achieve that scale.

LUCI

That’s great. Thank you for that. You know, measurement has always been important to brands, you know, is it more of a challenge now to measure the success or value of your advertising in this cookie-less world?

You know, Steven, what are you seeing from your side of things?

STEVE

Yes, it’s an interesting topic. Especially with where we are from an economic perspective, right? Like everybody is trying to be more efficient with every dollar that they spend.

Because obviously, they need to make sure they’re proving the ROI. So that’s the interesting thing when you work with Live Ramp and you’re buying against ramp IDs, right? Which is how people in the currency with which we transact at Live Ramp.

And as you mentioned, we’ve been doing this for quite some time and we have been part of bigger companies that have been in this business, before the Internet even existed. We have the ability to really track back to the actual purchase data that exists. So, one of the things that we pride ourselves on when we’re talking to advertisers and agencies, is the ability to measure every dollar that’s spent, to that ROI. Which, we think is super important, especially when you’re targeting an addressable and authenticated audience. That ROI is a lot easier to prove and track.

So that positions us, especially in good times and bad times, as they must buy for a lot of the advertising agency.

LUCI

Yeah. And, Todd, you’re in a little bit different position, because you’re really leveraging activation,  You’re leveraging your audiences, or your activation for brands.

You know, how are the brands today in this more difficult space, to achieve reach and scale, how are they looking at measurement and ROI?

TODD

And I think, echoing Steven’s point, I think it has fast-forwarded the movement to measure sort of the spend in the digital space, right? Whether that’s programmatic, or one of the social apps on matching sales attribution, right? Versus some other things like last touch, and who went to the site and those kinds of things.

Some of the disruption of cookies have changed those KPIs altogether.

So, it kind of pushes to something you can control, which is, hey, if I can match by PI attached to sales, I can match that to the audience I’m spending against, I can get a more consistent and true review of what that ROI is.

And those same sorts of techniques existed 10, 15 years ago, as well. Um, whether it was in the programmatic space or social. But I think that the difference now is, because of the cookie change, publishers are more conscious about what is an authenticated impression where you have name and address or identity associated with the impression versus what is not.

Whereas, before we kind of worked itself out. On the backend, you would look at who was reached and who wasn’t reached. Some of those cookies you could attach identity to enhance sales, too.

And you’d sort of do the math, tease out the bias and it kind of infer what the ROI was of the whole pool. But now that I think publishers are more conscious about that, it allows brands to really focus on that portion where they can get ROI. And then think about that other portion a little bit different.

STEVE

And I guess the only thing I would add to that, to echo a lot of what’s been said, is really just to say it’s more about real people, right? So there’s a lot of noise when it comes to cookies. There’s a lot of noise when it comes to a lot of other things, but, if you’re logging into a website, if you are signing up for our newsletter, like, you’re doing that, because you’re a real person, and it makes the value of that authentication significantly higher than tokens of the past, if you will.

TODD

Yeah, and that’s, that’s a good point because it means to the planning. So Luci, one of the behaviors before this drive to authentication and thinking about everything as people, is you just thought about scale as potential sum of cookies, right?

And so then, planners, and I’m not naming names at all, you just say hypothetically, you go five years ago of a brand looking for an audience that they’re trying to reach: Millennials. Right? And then judging the quality of their audience was based on scale because they know they could, the larger the pool that you’re trying to reach, the more cost-effectively you can reach them.

But then, they’re looking at estimates, population estimates of Millennials that exceed the Census Bureau by 10X or 3X. Huge numbers, that, it’s really because of cookies, not a person and so you don’t really know how many of those cookies are tied to the same person and is one audience allowing you to reach more? Or are you just reaching a smaller audience, but more often, and what does that do to your frequency caps and the experience that consumer is going to have with your brand?

So I think all of those things are true, and that’s, and that’s the other kind of component outside of ROI as brands look at that unauthentic, unauthenticated traffic, and reaching users who aren’t authenticated.

How are those experiences different when you’re not quite sure what that frequency rate is for that consumer, what that experience is, versus one that’s in?

And it’s an antiquated experience. And you can really control for that across properties because it all ties to the same person.

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