Advertisers Must Begin Learning From Cookieless Ad Campaigns:  What to Ask Identity Resolution Providers (and Yourself)

By Chris Hartely*

January 29, 2021


With The Wall Street Journal confirming that Google will soon join Apple and Mozilla in their ban of third-party cookies, 2022 will be a year of upheaval for advertisers.

This article is the first piece in a two-part series on advertiser approaches to the emerging cookieless world. Here, I address pilot campaigns oriented toward reaching your current customers. The next article will address prospect marketing by targeting lookalike audiences.
eMarketer recently 
wrote that to succeed in this emerging era, “It’s critical for advertisers to start testing approaches to targeting these types of users [cookieless identities] and measuring results.”

Now’s the time to start exploring how you face this cookieless future. My advice: Don’t go all-in immediately. Start with a series of relatively small pilot programs to build a growing base of knowledge about the identity providers available, their different capabilities, and how you can best take advantage of new cookieless offerings.
Before you begin this series of pilot campaigns, you’ll first need to evaluate your customer data assets and business needs. To help, I have created a two-part checklist of questions you should ask yourself and ask identity resolution providers.

What You Should Ask Yourself


1.) How do I manage and organize my customer database?


What kind of customer data do you have?  Do you have a CRM? Do you have offline data like customer names, addresses, etc.? Do you have hashed emails or mobile ID numbers? Hashed emails and mobile IDs will allow you to start a cookieless campaign with minimal data preparation. In contrast, offline data will require a separate process to onboard and convert your data into persistent identities. 


2.) What relationships do I have with vendors in the adtech ecosystem? What DSPs are integrated with my business, and what SSPs work with my DSPs?

Today, specific DSPs and SSPs are integrated with different identity resolution providers. As a result, you may want to work with the identity resolution providers currently integrated with your DSPs. Alternatively, identity resolution providers may provide you with fast-track integration with a new DSP or an SSP to manage a campaign via a deal ID. 



3.) What do I want to learn from a pilot program? How will I measure success?


A realistic benchmark is how well you’re able to reach new customers on Safari and Firefox (which automatically block third-party cookies in programmatic ad campaigns) vs. Chrome. You might also want to consider the cost per action in cookieless campaigns versus the results you achieve with today’s cookie-based efforts.



4.) What kind of results do I expect? What metrics and reporting methods do I want?


The reporting of some adtech partners can be opaque. I recommend looking at this problem from two angles: First, look at what’s available from different identity resolution partners. Can you obtain log-level results, which provide the most significant detail and highest campaign transparency? Second, look at the data you use to measure success today. How does this compare to the reporting offered for cookieless pilot programs?


What You Should Ask Identity Resolution Providers 


1.) How do you create persistent identities?


The inaccuracies associated with cookie-based campaigns are widely documented. For this emerging offering, identity resolution providers match browsers with identities in different ways. It’s useful to understand how the identity provider’s core technology works and why it outperforms cookie-based advertising.


2.) Can you convert my customer data into persistent identities? Do I need to work with a third-party company to onboard my data?


Depending on the data you possess, some identity resolution providers may need to engage an intermediary to match your lists with the hashed emails required to associate persistent IDs with first-party data (typically logged-in users) at publisher sites. For example, to make the process as frictionless as possible, BritePool has partnerships with companies at every step of the process, including onboarding partners to add intelligence to customer data.


3.) How many of my customers can you find on the Open Web without cookies (identities seen in the bidstream each month)? How many identities do you have under contract?


To recognize the first-party data of web publishers, identity resolution providers need their tech on-page. And providers are in the process of building out their supply chain of web publishers, mobile apps, and mobile devices. Over time the number of participating publishers will grow dramatically. Right now, you want to be sure an identity resolution provider has a sufficiently large base of persistent identities to offer a test that yields meaningful results. For example, BritePool has 150 million identities under contract, while a portion of this growing base is seen each month in the bidstream (depending on the frequency of user visits to each site or app).



4.) What DSPs are you integrated with, and what SSPs are integrated with these DSPs? What’s your path from publisher to SSP to DSP? Does your DSP have the proven ability to manage a cookieless campaign through accurate reach, frequency capping, and optimization? 

As noted above, you are looking for an identity resolution provider that works with one of your DSPs or can offer an easy-to-implement alternative to access its supply chain. Also, you want to be sure the DSP managing the initiative is set-up to optimize your campaign results.

5.) What type of results and data do you make available to marketers after a campaign?

The answer to this question matches the analysis of your needs above. By knowing what you want and what’s available, you can assess the potential learning provided by each identity resolution partner.
6.) How do you charge for campaigns?


Different Identity resolution providers have adopted different approaches to fees. Some offer their services as part of larger bundles. Others charge for ID services separately. Importantly, you want to ask whether the fees associated with initial pilot programs will reflect the expenses associated with full-scale campaigns, as this aspect of the programmatic industry matures. 

A Concluding Thought


As you begin the transition to marketing in the cookieless era, it's important to remember that each identity resolution provider's capabilities are different. Make sure you’re working with one or more that have the experience to minimize the work for you and your team—and offers the maximum learning to meet your business needs. Data provenance, which may be required by regulators, will also benefit marketers. By harnessing trusted data, programmatic advertisers can understand and engage consumers at the right moment, eliminating waste from media budgets. This rapid access to quality data enables programmatic advertisers to optimize spending across the programmatic ecosystem in entirely new ways.

*Chris Hartley is BritePool's Chief Revenue Officer.