The Complete Guide to a Cookieless World

In order to help navigate the ongoing changes in digital advertising before 3rd party cookies officially exit, we put together The Complete Guide to a Cookieless World. This guide discusses common industry themes in the ad tech space, breaks down the identity landscape, and much more.

What is a cookie? 

Cookies are blocks of data (also known as small text files) that are created when a user visits and browses a website. These blocks of data store information in the user’s browser and are able to recognize the user during future visits.

What do cookies do? 

Cookies provide personalized advertising content by storing information about the user.  

What is a third-party cookie? 

Third-party cookies are placed on domains that originate from an external source. For example, have you ever looked up a pair of shoes, and then saw those exact same shoes in a few ad placements on different websites? This is a prime example of third-party cookies at play as a retargeting ad. Essentially, third-party cookies are used for cross-site tracking and targeting users through ads. Though this has historically been the most common use of cookies amongst advertisers, third-party cookies will be phasing out in 2025.

What is a first-party cookie? 

First-party cookies are cookies generated by the host domain, and allow a company to provide a better user experience. For example, first-party cookies save your items in your shopping cart for next time, and store your login information so you don’t have to log in manually each time you click on a website. First-party cookies will not be phasing out.

What does going cookieless mean?

Going cookieless means the absence of third-party cookies as an identifier. Instead, advertisers will use alternative identifiers and/or targeting methods for their programmatic advertising campaigns.

What is identity resolution? 

Identity resolution is the process of connecting multiple identifiers from across different platforms and devices in order to target and measure relevant users. Essentially, identity resolution allows advertisers to target users interested in particular products or services while preserving their privacy and security (i.e., no identifiable data, such as name, email address, etc., is used/stored).

How can identity resolution maximize ad spend efficiency?

Access under-targeted users across cookieless browsers will improve campaign performance. Less demand for cookieless impressions decreases CPMs for the same quality inventory and increases return on ad spend. Identity resolution can also help you better understand your customer’s browsing behaviors and can reduce your customer acquisition costs.

How to choose an identity resolution partner?

Evaluate the breadth and quality of their data sources. Working with a partners who works with many partners will help increase your reach. Ensure robust privacy, transparency, and observance of industry guidelines. Consider your potential partner’s matching methodology, integration capabilities, and reporting/analytics offerings.

Why do publishers need identity resolution technology?

Identity resolution transforms publishers’ cookieless traffic into addressable inventory, increasing unique demand for undervalued supply. Identity resolution helps publishers increase revenue from previously unaddressable inventory.

Why do DSPs need identity resolution technology?

It allows DSPs to effectively target and engage with customers across all browsers while respecting their privacy. DSPs can reach quality under-targeted inventory efficiently. Keep in mind that measurement is an important need for DSPs when preparing for when third-party cookies are no longer available.

Why do SSPs need identity resolution technology?

Identity resolution allows their publisher partners to transform their cookie alternative supply into valuable programmatic revenue. It increases identifiable bid requests and revenue while giving their demand partners access to unique cookie alternative inventory.

What are five cookieless alternatives to third-party cookies? 

  1. 1. Probabilistic ID solutions – The probabilistic targeting approach essentially uses soft signals to build a user profile. These soft signals can include browser type, device type, and other non-identifiable characteristics.
  2. 2. First-party data – First-party data is the data shared directly from an audience. An example of first-party data is when names, email addresses, etc. are collected from a form. This verified information creates a profile that advertisers can target, making them authenticated IDs. An additional example of first-party data is subscription-based services The key here is employing appropriate consent management.
  3. 3. Contextual targeting – Contextual targeting is when relevant ads are placed based on the page content (for example, if you’re on a nutrition website, you may see an ad for supplements).
  4. 4. Universal ID (UID) – A universal ID is an identifier that is attached to a user. This identifier passes on information to approved partners. Universal IDs are enriched with first-party and offline data.
  5. 5. Google’s Privacy Sandbox – Since third-party cookies are phasing out, Google proposed an alternative; their Privacy Sandbox. The Privacy Sandbox replaces third-party cookies with APIs to provide anonymized information on conversions and attribution.
  • Google Protected Audience API (PAAPI): allows advertisers to target audiences without tracking individual browsing behaviors 
  • Google Topics API  allows advertisers to target users with ads based on interests implied by the sites the users have visited while preserving their privacy.

What about 2nd party data and 3rd party data?

Second-party data is information you didn’t collect yourself — in other words; you’re using it secondhand. Businesses often get it by working with a trusted partner that shares audience insights in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Third-party data is collected by a business that doesn’t have a direct relationship with the user whose data is being collected.

Is a subscription-based model the solution to third-party cookies going away?

Although subscription-based models may be a good option for some companies, it is not the end all be all solution to third-party cookie depreciation. Why? Because requiring paywalls to access content restricts equal access to content for consumers. At 33Across, we believe that breaking news should not only be available to paid subscribers as this creates an economic information gap.

Why the move towards cookieless or cookie deprecation?

Because of privacy concerns, Google is phasing out its use of third-party cookies on Chrome; the most commonly-used desktop browser. Chrome will join other browsers like Safari and Firefox that do not currently use third-party cookies.

What is the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is the UK’s watchdog that oversees digital advertising practices. As Google implements its Privacy Sandbox initiative to overhaul online advertising, the CMA plays a pivotal role in ensuring fair competition and consumer protection. The regulator aims to prevent potential abuse of market power by Google during this transition while safeguarding user interests. The CMA’s scrutiny serves as an impartial check, facilitating a transparent and equitable evolution of the digital advertising landscape.

Is it a good thing that third-party cookies are phasing out? 

Pros of third-party cookies phasing out:

  • More privacy for consumers
  • More power for publishers
  • With third-party cookies phasing out, this has brought attention to just how much of a publishers’ inventory is under-monetized. For example, around 50% of a publisher’s revenue is cookieless but many are not capitalizing on that revenue.

Cons of third-party cookies phasing out:

  • Many advertisers, publishers, and marketers are not prepared for the phase-out. Lack of preparation can lead to huge monetization issues when the phase-out officially takes place.

The Timeline of Third-party Deprecation

Why is cookieless targeting important?

  • Buyers can reach new audiences: Targeting cookieless inventory enables buyers to tap into new audiences.
  • Increased efficiency: 33Across’ Lexicon solution gives demand partners access to quality audiences with less competition than cookied inventory, creating more efficiency and higher win rates.
  • Publishers are able to monetize all of their inventory: Today, publishers earn almost all of their programmatic revenue from 50% of their cookied inventory, leaving their Safari and Firefox inventory under-monetized. 33Across’ Lexicon enables cookieless monetization so publishers can address their entire inventory both today and when third-party cookies phase out.

How does 33Across solve addressability for publishers?

With 33Across’ identity solution, Lexicon, publishers are equipped with the technology to turn cookieless supply into programmatic revenue. Lexicon provides immediate scale and differentiated cookieless demand with minimal operational lift, all while maintaining consumer privacy.

Lexicon: How it Works:

Lexicon helps publishers monetize their unsold display and video ad inventory by integrating with major ad exchanges across supply-side platforms. This unlocks demand from sources like Google Open Bidding, Amazon, and Prebid, potentially increasing publishers’ ad revenue while honoring consumer privacy. Learn more about accessing unique demand with Lexion here.

Who should use cookieless targeting? 

With the shift towards a cookieless world, all publishers, DSPs. SSPs, data companies, marketers, and the like should shift their focus to cookieless targeting. Soon enough, it won’t be possible to access the individualized data that most are used to with third-party cookies, so there should be a transition (sooner rather than later) towards cookieless targeting  before the phase out in 2024. 

33Across’ Lexicon solution has helped multiple publishers to monetize their cookieless inventory. 

Check out this AdExchanger article that highlights our partnership with and how we helped them to monetize 67% of their cookieless inventory. 

Are you a publisher and not sure how or where to get started? Then check out our blog, 4 Tips for Publishers: How to Navigate Away from Third-Party Cookies here

What is a DSP?

A DSP, or a demand-side platform, is a cloud-based software that advertisers use to manage ad and data exchange accounts. 

What is a SSP?

An SSP, or a sell-side platform, is a software that allows publishers to manage and optimize their ad inventory that they sell programmatically to advertisers.

What is a data clean room?

A data clean room is an environment where two parties can share sensitive information such as customer and enterprise data. The information is encrypted and anonymized and used for marketing purposes, product insights, and a variety of other use cases. 

What are match rates?

Match rates are the percentage of users from an audience segment that a demand-side platform (DSP) is able to recognize. They are applied when analyzing the data in online ad tools, such as programmatic bid requests.  Match rates allow advertisers to understand the size of their addressable audiences, and all in all, the higher the match rate of a specific audience segment, the greater the DSP addressability.

Outlook for cookieless tracking in 2024 and beyond 

A large disruption in digital advertising should be expected when cookies phase out in 2025. Shifting from third to first-party data will force brands to adjust how they store and use data. The extended cancellation deadline has given industry groups more time to create standards to ensure transparency between buyers, sellers, and ad tech enablers.

33Across CEO, Eric Wheeler, provided his insights on the outlook for 2024 and beyond.

How do I get started with cookieless targeting?

Here are some helpful resources where you can learn more about 33Across and the benefits of going cookieless:

Are you ready to get started with Lexicon? Contact us today.