Post-Cookie Lessons from Germany: An Industry Call-to-Action

Paper Hole

As definitive strategies and tactical solutions begin to emerge from the post-cookie fallout, Mike O’Sullivan (pictured below), VP product, identity and data at Index Exchange, discusses what approaches publishers in the German and wider global market can take to capitalise on nascent opportunities.

This September, Firefox became another falling domino in the post-cookie revolution. Following Safari’s lead, Mozilla’s browser released a feature automatically blocking third-party cookies for 100% of their user base. As one of the most popular browsers in Germany (with a market share that teeters between 20%-30%), this shift had a material effect on German publishers’ business — in the weeks to follow, they saw a devastating 40% decline in bid rate and bidding activity from buyers.

To say there’s a heightened sense of urgency around this issue would be an understatement. Publishers in and outside of the German market are asking themselves what life, and their bottom lines, will look like in a world without third-party cookies. The thought of a cookie-less, yet addressable programmatic ecosystem is no longer prophetic — it’s a vision we must collectively champion for our industry to grow and thrive. Consumers, and now browsers, have made their message loud and clear: users want greater control and the capacity to opt out of advertising. They want to understand and determine how their data is being used, and rightfully so.

Mike O'Sullivan

Mike O’Sullivan, VP Product, Identity and Data, Index Exchange

Without an existing, addressable solution in place, publishers are absorbing the body blow; but they’re pivoting to action. Questions like what can a publisher do to keep their business stable? How can they solve this, and future-proof their business, should another major browser make a decision like Firefox and Safari (which, at this point, seems to be an inevitability)?

What action can publishers take now?

We don’t have all of the answers, but there are a few tactical approaches we can take to drive positive change now.

The first, most imperative step publishers can take is embracing first-party, deterministic data. In layman’s terms, this refers to any and all data a publisher has collected directly (and with consent) from their audiences. Many publishers already have meaningful, engaged audiences, from users who actively log-in to newsletter subscribers. In order to nurture and grow these audiences, publishers have to shift their focus to identity. As a publisher, the key is finding partners (be they brands, tech vendors, etc.) who can help you consolidate and organise this first-party data, allowing you to drive monetisation through audiences who are already willingly engaging with your content.

In the theme of finding partners, it’s important that publishers remember they can’t rewrite our industry’s rulebook on their own. The next step in achieving addressability is to align with identity-focused alliances, like the NetID Foundation (in Germany specifically) and Advertising ID Consortium, who are thinking about this problem holistically. At present, these groups are leveraging publishers’ first-party data to create identity graphs that return that addressability and power to publishers.

What will happen in the short term?

In working through these tactical changes, it’s important to remember that there might be adjustments and growing pains (for publishers and for the industry at large). That said, we expect inventory in the Trusted Web — e.g. all inventory from trusted, premium publishers made addressable via logins — will become an increasingly scarce and powerful resource in our industry. As browsers crack down on third-party cookies and publishers work to leverage first-party data, the web will shift to an environment in which premium inventory is infused with first-party identifiers, strengthening rather than diluting publishers’ monetisation strategies. Despite challenges in the immediate future, these seismic shifts will ultimately place publishers in a stronger, more efficacious position.

Necessity is the mother of all invention, and this was a galvanising event for our industry and ecosystem. Firefox has whet German publishers’ appetite for an increase in addressable inventory, but this is a dish the entire ecosystem is craving. It’s only a matter of time before this level of addressability is served.

The effect of the post-cookie revolution on publisher monetisation within the German market will be discussed in-depth at ATS Berlin 2019, held on 5th November. Limited tickets are available to purchase here.