October is officially #spookyszn. While creepy, nothing is as terrifying for political digital operatives than losing their ability to target audiences across screens.
Unlike the monster hiding under your bed, the impending fate of third-party cookie deprecation is very real.
Google Chrome is currently set to phase out third party cookies by late 2024. Firefox and Safari already block third-party cookies by default. We’ve been hearing about the end of cookies since 2018, and there are a number of reasons why the industry is moving away from this dated technology.
Not only is it a privacy concern, but cookies are not as effective as they used to be. Ad blockers and other privacy focused tools are becoming increasingly popular and prevent advertisers from being able to track users and serve ads.
Our industry has come a long way over the years, especially with adoption of inventory supply path optimization (SPO), which creates a more transparent and efficient supply chain. With so many advancements, why is the end of cookie targeting a boogie man in the shadows waiting to wreak havoc on digital programs?
The deprecation of third-party cookies is a major challenge for the political advertising industry. Traditionally, cookies have been a key technology for advertisers to track users (voters) across the web and target them with relevant ads.
Without cookies, accurate targeting is a greater challenge. This has a domino effect, bad targeting followed by increased media inefficiencies and eventually less actual SPO in programmatic media buys.
As a reminder, SPO is the process of identifying and optimizing the supply chain for digital advertising. This involves working with publishers directly, supply side partners (SSP’s) and other intermediaries to ensure that ads are delivered to the right audience at the right price without bloated ad tech taxes. SPO empowers the advertiser to swim upstream and get closer to the original inventory source, cutting out various middlemen. Benefits include higher match rates and transparency, less fraud risk and improved advertiser buying power.
Third-party cookie targeting has been a significant tactic in political advertising for many cycles. After all, an untargeted or incorrectly targeted ad is a wasted ad. But fear not, my fellow pumpkin spice latte loving friends. There’s a viable solution for the end of cookie targeting that also improves SPO.
Unified ID 2.0 (UID) is a privacy preserving identifier used to target and measure digital advertising without relying on third-party cookies. UID 2.0 was developed by The Trade Desk, a demand side platform (DSP), in collaboration with other industry leaders. It works by creating a unique identifier based on a user email signup. This identifier is then hashed and “salted” to make it more difficult for fraudsters to spoof.
UID 2.0 is also decentralized. It’s not stored on one server but many, making it more secure and less susceptible to data breaches. Simply put, UID 2.0 anonymizes cross-screen internet users who can be targeted with digital ads without relying on cookies.
Anyone can leverage UID 2.0. It’s an open source technology that is not “owned” by any one company. Once you have a UID 2.0 account (unifiedid.com) you can start using the technology to target and measure your own digital programs. While still in the development stage, it’s already being used by the larger corporate advertisers and holding company agencies.
UID 2.0 is expected to become more widely adopted in the coming years so the political industry should be utilizing it fully by the next presidential cycle. And why not? UID 2.0 may facilitate better data sharing and hygiene practices, something that’s always in high demand in our world.
Premium inventory and voter targeting go together like Snickers and Reese’s cups on Halloween night. Let’s dig a bit deeper into how exactly UID 2.0 cookie-less targeting improves inventory SPO.
UID 2.0 provides advertisers the opportunity to identify the most efficient supply paths for their digital campaigns by letting advertisers track ad performance across different publishers and exchanges. Advertisers can target their ads more precisely to individual users, even if they’re using different browsers and devices. This leads to more efficient use of ad budgets and better campaign results including higher engagement, clicks and/or conversions.
Fraud remains a huge issue in the digital advertising world, especially during the busy election season. Cyber security firm Human Security (formally White Ops) estimated ad fraud cost the 2020 presidential election cycle $1.1 billion, mostly in the form of domain spoofing and inflated clicks. UID 2.0 makes it more difficult for fraudsters to impersonate real users. This leads to a more transparent and trustworthy supply chain for digital advertising.
Additionally, UID 2.0 allows advertisers to track users across different devices and browsers. Political campaigns often involve multiple digital tactics such as display, social and search. UID 2.0 helps unify user tracking across these channels, resulting in improved SPO by identifying the most effective tactic for each audience. This technology provides media buyers a better understanding of how campaigns are performing and where they can be improved.
Moreover, political advertisers can take a number of steps to optimize their inventory SPO strategy in the post-cookie era. First and foremost, we all should be encouraging clients to collect and utilize first-party data (data that’s collected directly from users.) This data is more valuable and reliable than third-party cookie data and helps political advertisers better understand and reach their audience. Another option is to contextually target. This is the practice of targeting ads to the content of the web pages on which they appear. Contextual targeting is a privacy-friendly way to reach users who are interested in the content they’re viewing. Many of us have been doing this for years with our YouTube buys.
Embracing new technology in real time is one of the most significant ways we can help our candidates win on election day. Advertisers should work with trusted partners to ensure their inventory supply paths are transparent and fraud-free. Collaborating with those in the market who are embracing new solutions to address the challenges posed by the deprecation of cookies is a way to keep ahead of the werewolf pack.
It is worth noting that the success of UID 2.0 to improve SPO depends on its widespread adoption and integration into the digital advertising ecosystem. We as political strategists must leverage it effectively within the bounds of an ever-changing regulatory landscape.
UID 2.0 has the potential to make SPO and digital campaigns by and large more efficient and effective. It helps advertisers target their ads more precisely, reduces fraud and improves measurement. UID 2.0 identifies the most efficient supply paths by increasing transparency in the digital advertising supply chain. This is because it’s a single privacy complaint identifier that can be used to track ads across different publishers and exchanges, essentially breaking walled gardens.
Just because the third-party cookie targeting is vanishing like a vampire in the sun doesn’t mean our industry’s ability to reach voters must as well.
Kate Holliday is VP, Politics & Public Affairs at Powers Interactive.