It’s Time for an Advertising Infrastructure That Works for Everyone

Times have changed

Third-party cookies ushered in a robust digital economy that made it possible for everyone from scrappy startups to legacy brands to advertise more efficiently and on an unprecedented scale. 

Unfortunately, in this period of accelerated growth and innovation, the industry overlooked a fundamental flaw. The infrastructure obscured the data marketplace and left consumers out of the decision-making process almost entirely. This lack of transparency planted the seeds of mistrust that are now driving regulatory and policy changes around the world.

A new and better system

Our industry faces a new and complex challenge—regaining consumer trust. We need to fix how consumers participate in the data economy and do a better job of explaining that the data they share is part of a mutually beneficial value exchange that’s essential to developing innovative products and services. The old system with its invisible trackers was not built to provide a way for consumers to interact or even comprehend what happens to their data.

With the growth of connected devices and increasing awareness of the amount of data the internet of things generates, it’s likely that privacy advocates will push for more intervention. Misguided speculation around workarounds like fingerprinting or hashed emails is not only unsafe but guarantees that we’ll be having the same consumer privacy conversations two years from now.

The longer it takes the industry to make a concerted effort to overcome the trust deficit and do more than just check the boxes on compliance, the harder it will be to convince consumers that we understand how to respect them and their data, let alone actually do it. Just like we used technology to drive the growth of ecommerce in the 1990s, we can build a new infrastructure based on the fundamentals of trust.

Publishers must build trust and maintain revenue through authenticated traffic  

Publishers can support this new infrastructure by doubling down on first-party relationships and renewing focus on the development of innovative new experiences and engaging content. A fairer value exchange that operates on a model of consent and preferences will help consumers feel less like the product and more like the beneficiaries of a positive, dynamic economic phenomenon.

By requesting information and participation, publishers are providing consumers with more transparency into how their data is used and a choice to opt-in. By showing consumers the respect they deserve, publishers can easily shift to a model of direct authentication rather than by proxy, making inventory more valuable. Logged-in users instantly provide higher yields for all cookie-less browsers and unlock demand for new, higher-revenue streams.

Brands, agencies and partners must lean into sustainable and privacy-first cookie-less solutions

Google calling the time of death on third-party cookies does not mean the end of addressability or the decline of digital reach. Adopting an interoperable, persistent identifier will maintain privacy, enable addressability and fix issues that result from cookie-based legacy infrastructure like data loss and declining yields from multiple cookie syncs.

Identifiers that are uniquely encoded for each party can also ensure that data is protected, whether activated within a walled garden, on the open internet or between data and technology partners.

At LiveRamp, we know that greater transparency, efficiency and accountability are possible. The only way to reach the next phase of accelerated economic development is by upgrading to this new system. To this end, we invite everyone to lean in and start experimenting with neutral, privacy-first and cookie-less solutions that will future-proof our industry.

Publishers, brands, agencies and technology providers all have tremendous power to insist on systemic improvements that can create a more balanced and equal playing field. Now, thirty years after this journey began, let’s not let this opportunity pass us by.

Scott Howe is the president and CEO of LiveRamp, a technology and services company that provides the identity platform leveraged by brands and their partners to deliver innovative products and exceptional experiences. Rooted in data accessibility, identity, connectivity and data stewardship, LiveRamp makes it easy to connect the world’s data, people and applications.