Staff Writer
Jan 27, 2022

The identity evolution: Yahoo’s vision for a community garden in a post-cookie world

Marketers and publishers are facing a multitude of challenges when it comes to operating in a cookie-less world: changes to tracking, privacy, regulation, or just getting the basics right. Dan Richardson, Yahoo’s head of data ANZ looks at some of the steps brands and agencies can take to better prepare for a cookie-less future.

The identity evolution: Yahoo’s vision for a community garden in a post-cookie world
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For years, most audience targeting, frequency capping, and conversion optimisation has been done off the back of the cookie. But the death of the cookie is impending, so what does this mean for marketers?

“The bottom line is that customer identity is definitely in jeopardy,” said Dan Richardson, Yahoo’s head of data ANZ at Campaign’s Performance Marketing Playbook.

“When we look at all of the things that we’ve been doing over the years – audience targeting, frequency caps, cross-device marketing, ad personalisation, measurement… they’re all at stake.”

According to Richardson, about 30% of ad opportunities are currently being delivered to unknown users, blindly. Meaning that if a customer has just bought something, the brand doesn’t actually know that it’s happened in a browser that’s blocking cookies. This is only expected to worsen with the removal of cookies, with targets projecting 75% of audiences will be unidentified by 2023.

Yahoo is determined to help brands and advertisers bridge this gap. The company’s cookie-less solutions are already helping brands solve for when identity can and can’t be tracked.

A future anchored in direct consumer relationships

Nurturing direct consumer relationships is the first step Yahoo has taken in its approach to the cookie-less future. Direct consumer relationships will be the anchor for solutions driven by first-party data. It allows publishers and brands a straightforward means of demonstrating the value exchange for a consumer’s data - from personalised content and a better user experience on a publisher’s site to a brand’s value proposition to consumers at every touchpoint.  

At present, Yahoo has direct consumer relationships with more than 158 million consumers across the APAC region. Around 20% of those in Australia are authenticated, meaning they all have a logged-in user ID. And the figure for authenticated users is higher in Singapore and Hong Kong, between 30-40%.

“These authenticated users are really the basis from which we learn,” says Richardson. “From which we build out our understanding of consumers across devices, and how we understand if they’re engaging digitally online: with audio, augmented reality (AR), native ads, connected TV, digital out of home, and bring that all into one single, unified view.”

Solutions today, for tomorrow’s future

Beyond nurturing direct consumer relationships, marketers will have to find ways to analyse, reach, and activate them at scale, all within a privacy-safe manner and environment. One route that Yahoo is taking is investing in machine learning technology. They have developed the Next-Gen Solutions suite, a first-to-market offering for advertisers and publishers independent of cookies or mobile app IDs for audience creation, buying or measurement.

"Our Next-Gen Solutions are basically age, gender and interest targeting, but without the need for cross-device tracking or fingerprinting. They use first-party real-time signals that go beyond content for non-addressable environments. So if you’ve opted out with your iPhone, you can still see ads that are relevant to your age, gender or interest, but without relying on things like fingerprinting," says Richardson.

"It's been really successful – we’re seeing the solution adopted across the region as it delivers performance to brands and advertisers."

On the back of the success of its Next-Gen Solutions suite, Yahoo’s cookie-less solution will soon see new features, including predictive optimisation and audience expansion tools, that will further support marketers and their campaign goals.

Ensuring that marketers have the tools and solutions for all their needs is also the core of Yahoo’s approach. One of these is Yahoo ConnectID – a unified identity solution built on deterministic data from opt-in, direct consumer relationships across its properties - that gives advertisers and publishers a way to manage, reach and monetise online audiences while also safeguarding consumer privacy.

Another is Enhanced Attribution, a tool that uses a click ID as an identifier. For example, if you’re in Safari and you click on an ad to make a purchase – the buying platform, in this case, Yahoo DSP, will not know that because it’s blocked by the browser. What Enhanced Attribution is able to do is rewrite that piece of information, preserving the click as first-party data and then passing it back into the platform. "So that’s something done with a very simple piece of code and it’s delivering a 20% improvement to cost per acquisition," says Richardson. "It's a really easy thing to turn on and we’re seeing a lot of results from it already."

A flexible and collaborative community garden

Yahoo’s vision for the cookie-less world is what they call a "community garden". Taking a flexible and collaborative approach to data, Yahoo welcomes brands and publishers to use their identity solutions in collaboration with their own. They are also giving customers the option to combine their own first-party data with Yahoo's in a flexible manner.

"When we talk about a community garden, we mean that first of all we produce our own identity solutions, but they are interoperable," explains Richardson. "If you’d like to bring your cookie-less audiences from Adobe or LiveRamp, or any of Yahoo’s many data partners, we can match that anonymously, safely and securely, and you can then activate that anywhere. You can broker your deals with any publisher that you like. We don’t preference our own ad exchange either."

In addition, in the face of all the changes to tracking and privacy, for Yahoo, the key has been to build an omnichannel marketing ecosystem. Meaning that anything that’s either standard media or new media – digital out-of-home, augmented reality or connected TV –should be viewed holistically through the same lens, in the same platform ideally.

Increasing direct-to-consumer relationships, getting comfortable with machine learning, testing solutions to avoid pain later and seeking out interoperable solutions are vital steps for any marketer preparing for a cookie-less future.

"These are steps that brands and agencies can leverage and activate today," says Richardson. "More than just paving the way through thought leadership or future thinking, it’s business as usual for us and our clients. What we have to offer is ready for activation immediately, right now."

The full session of “Understanding consumers across the funnel in a post-cookie world” at Campaign’s Performance Marketing Playbook is available here.

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