blog: Don Marti


a likely near future for web ads

25 March 2020

Michael D. Silberman from Piano writes,

Every day, users provide media companies with the type of explicit, accurate, data other businesses covet. Consumers willingly volunteer this data as they register or subscribe in order to unlock more content or build a deeper relationship with their site of choice. And it’s exactly this type of information that, if used right, can push those companies ahead in this new data landscape.

Piano is one of several service providers enabling the web ad business to migrate from the third-party cookie to SSO identifiers for ad placement and attribution. Another example is How LiveRamp Plans To Win After ‘Seismic Impact’ Of Chrome And Regulatory Changes | AdExchanger

LiveRamp’s Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS) is creating more chances to match online users based on email. Publishers using ATS ask readers to submit their email for free access to content. That email address can potentially be matched to the IdentityLink profile, creating a chance for one-to-one targeting without having cookies, and with clear consent because the email was given to the site. Howe said LiveRamp has 12 SSPs and 30 DSPs buying on ATS or committed to its adoption.

One possible future for post-cookie web advertising is going to work something like this: if you're signed in to a site, you're going to get something pretty close to adtech as usual, except limited to the group of sites where you're willing to sign in. So if two publishers can both use a registration wall to get your email (or SSO that maps to your email, which is basically the same thing) then the same ads will "follow" you across both those sites, and you'll see ads targeted based on loyalty programs you opt into.

This means an increase in market power for publishers from the conventional third-party cookie, because crappy and fraudulent sites will have a hard time getting your email or SSO. For advertisers, the game of tag, trying to get ads in front of specific people, continues, except that the boundaries for the game are brought in to include only sites that can get people past the reg wall. LiveRamp CEO Scott Howe explains, in Why Addressability Will Flourish In A Cookieless World | AdExchanger.

On sites where you're not signed in, you're going to get ads for miracle fungus cures, predatory finance schemes, and other bottom-feeder stuff—unless you're running a browser with built-in targeting/atribution (the stuff being discussed at W3C's advertising business group) and leave it turned on. In that case your browser will do magic JavaScript tricks to give you reasonable-looking ads from legit companies—but the site still has an incentive to get you signed in if possible. (The clickbait of today is a photo and headline. The clickbait of two years from now will be a photo, headline, and a killer first two paragraphs to run above the SSO button.)

Fraud doesn't go away entirely in this scenario, but the difficulty of fraud schemes does shift, and tends to make other platforms, such as streaming media, into more attractive fraud targets.