David Reischer
Jun 28, 2022

Post-third-party cookies: Are publisher cohorts the answer?

Publishers are able to glean first-party data from the behaviours and interests that users exhibit, rather than relying on identifiable information or just grouping people based on their demographics.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

With Google’s deprecation of third-party cookies now fast-approaching, and with Apple’s changes to its IDFA already in place, advertisers are quickly seeing the way they target relevant audiences completely transform. This changing digital advertising landscape will create a future that puts consumer privacy at the heart of everything that the advertising industry does. But what can advertisers do to prepare for the impending loss of identifiers?

One scalable, privacy-safe solution already available to advertisers in this new world is publisher cohorts.

What is a publisher cohort?

Unlike Google’s Topics API solution—and the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) solution it replaced—publisher cohorts are not built based on analysis of users’ cross-domain browsing history.

A publisher cohort is when consumers are grouped together within a publisher’s website or websites based on a shared characteristic. These cohorts are built based on the direct relationships that publishers have with their audience when they interact with a publisher. This one-to-one relationship provides publishers with a deep understanding of their users, and puts them in the best position to group them into cohorts.

Publishers are able to glean first-party data from the behaviours and interests that users exhibit, rather than relying on identifiable information or just grouping people based on their demographics.

First-party data can come from a number of sources, including what users are reading, watching, or listening to; registrations; or event attendance. Publishers are able to recognise 100% of their audiences, achieving maximum scale to create bespoke audiences. All of this rich information about a publisher’s audience can then be used to group users into publisher cohorts that, in turn, help advertisers to reach these groups with relevant advertising.

The deep understanding that publishers have also puts them in the perfect position to place consumers into multiple cohorts in real-time, rather than just the top 5 of the week, as with Topics. Additionally, brands are able to combine their own first-party data for authenticated users with these cohorts in a fully privacy-compliant way to create an even more powerful way of targeting audiences without any third-party cookies.

Big tech is not the answer

It’s important to note that, while Google’s solutions are slightly more privacy-safe than third-party cookies, they leave the tech giant in full control of a user’s interest-based data. This means that data from publisher sites is being collected and used to dictate the ads that people are being served, but the publisher has no ownership of that data. As a result, publisher channels are placed in the position of being purely transactional, much like they are in the world of third-party cookies.

Publisher cohorts don’t have this issue, as cohorts are built and managed at a local level, enabling publishers to continue to reach users with relevant content on whichever browser they are using. And importantly the publisher's data won’t leave their environment, which ensures that data and value aren’t decoupled. Publishers are in a far better position to protect the data of the users they have a relationship with, ensuring this data doesn’t become compromised and leak into the ecosystem.

A new solution

It’s clear that big tech is not where the industry should be turning for answers to the deprecation of cookies. Publishers are already able to offer a stable solution – one that benefits from them being able to recognise 100% of their audiences, create bespoke first-party audiences, and – with the right tools – match and model advertiser first-party data.

Brands should be seeking out closer relationships with publishers to unlock the full potential of the opportunities that exist. Targeting audiences within a publisher’s environment, and through publisher cohorts, is the answer to advertisers being able to continue achieving their marketing goals, while not putting user privacy at risk. And this will go a long way toward mending the consumer trust in the industry that continues to erode.

David Reischer is product manager at Permutive.


Campaign Asia

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