Publisher Strategies for Revenue Success without Third-Party Cookies

7 minute read

Team BlueVenn

Internet privacy has become more critical than ever. Right now, 67% of people believe they have little to no control over how companies use their data. This lack of trust has led big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple to step in and enforce data protection rules on behalf of their users.

These new privacy changes are starting with the use of third-party cookies. As a publisher, these updates likely pose some big challenges to the way you do business. To help publishers better understand these challenges and overcome them, we asked Mike Brooks, WeatherBug’s SVP of Revenue, for his guidance. Watch the entire webinar here.

WeatherBug serves 15MM active monthly users, is nearly 85% app-based, and has a successful email program to reach their audience beyond web and app. And while they do have a subscription service, almost 90% of WeatherBug’s revenue comes from advertising.

What’s Changing: Third-Party Cookies and iOS 14.5

Having worked in the industry for nearly a decade, Mike is well versed in the subject of data privacy. He says this new push towards internet privacy is a rejection of the status quo that allowed unrelated companies to advertise based on personal data you don’t give to them.

Simply put, personalized advertising shouldn’t be about Universal Studios knowing when you watch a Disney movie. And big tech companies don’t want the responsibility or liability of this personal knowledge coming back on them.

At least three of the major web browsers – Chrome, Safari, and Mozilla – have announced they will end the use of third-party cookies without explicit user consent. By default, browsers will turn user tracking off. This update means users will need to take the active step of turning on tracking within their browser settings.

But this isn’t just a browser issue. With Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, all mobile apps must clearly ask their users for their consent to track them and their usage across other apps and websites ­­– an action many companies previously relied on heavily for advertising.

Experts initially estimated the opt-in rate of this app feature would be low, predicting opt-ins to top out around 25-30%. However, the actual opt-in rate is even worse, hovering between 11-15% worldwide with just 5% of users in the U.S. opting in.

So while third-party cookies aren’t necessarily going away, our audience is collectively saying, “No, thank you.” As marketers, it’s our job to figure out how to build our audience’s trust and get them to say, “Yes!”

Navigating FLoC and the Rest of the Privacy Sandbox

If you want to grow your database, you’ll need to play by the rules of the new Privacy Sandbox. Mike Brooks describes the Privacy Sandbox as a collection of about 25 different proposals Google has written to address targeting and attribution.

One of the most talked-about standards within the Privacy Sandbox is the Federated Learning of Cohorts, also known as FLoC. “FLoC uses on-device machine learning to create aggregated cohorts for interest and audience targeting,” Mike says. Google’s FLoC definition contains two critical terms ­– ‘on-device’ and ‘aggregated’ – which also appear in Apple’s newest updates to SKAdNetwork.

At the most basic level, this means while many companies were using ad services to create audience segments, both Google and Apple believe if audiences are aggregated strictly within the device or browser – and never sent elsewhere – this is useable user information.

Advice for Publishers regarding iOS 14.5 and Third-Party Cookies

The most essential thing publishers can do right now is learn. Learn about all the areas these changes may impact, such as retargeting, third-party data, impression-based attribution, and frequency capping.

Expect and plan for a dip in your ad revenue. Mike Brooks estimates publishers relying on iOS ad revenue will feel a decrease up to 45-50% in CPMs since they don’t have the targeting infrastructure like those depending on third-party cookies. For those whose ad revenue is primarily coming from third-party cookies, Mike predicts they’ll see decreases of around 20%.

If your business has an app, iOS 14.5 poses even more significant risks. The AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework states that your company is responsible for the actions of every partner you work with, even if the violation happens outside your app. The penalties for these violations could be your app’s removal from the App Store or the inability to update your app. You need to have serious conversations with each of your partners to ensure you both agree with the expectations outlined in iOS 14.5, and you should consider terminating these relationships if not.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is the last of the privacy updates either. You should expect the Android world to follow what Google’s doing in the Privacy Sandbox world. Navigating successfully around these latest ad tech updates by prioritizing first-party data collection will position you for enormous success with any future privacy updates.

Three Ways to Grow Your First-Party Data

Much of what’s outlined above relate to technology outside the scope of what many publishers have complete control over. Tim D’Avis, Sr Digital Strategy Consultant at Upland Software, shared actionable plans for one thing you can control: your first-party data.

1. Owned Media

Audit and improve the permission capture happening across your website and your apps. This change will take you a long way towards improving the database of your known audience.

Start by looking at every form on your website, and every opportunity for inputting data in your apps, to ensure it’s asking for permission and consent for things like email, SMS, or push notifications. You should leverage whatever first-party information you know already to help personalize these opt-ins to the user.

2. Promotions

Promotions such as contests, quizzes, or voting brackets sit between your owned media and paid media. These go beyond a simple website widget or sign-up form to creating an engaging, interactive experience for your audience.

You want to focus on content and topics that drive social sharing. You’re looking for content that ties into natural social networks and compels your audience to become advocates of your campaign and your brand to their social networks.

3. Paid Media

Promotions like those mentioned above make great destinations for your paid media campaigns across social, search, and display. But you need to audit and improve your paid acquisition strategy to ensure you’re targeting the right people and not spending money re-acquiring the same customers or prospects.

Paid media is an excellent area for you to use the first-party data you’ve already collected to fine-tune you’re targeting. Use this data to create exclusion lists of people you already know or to help you identify lookalike sets to grow the cohorts you’ve already started.

The Way the (Third-Party) Cookie Crumbles

Ready or not, a world without third-party cookies is here, and it’s here to stay. Now is not the time to look for a band-aid solution to a temporary problem. Instead, it’s time to embrace these new changes and use them to reinforce your first-party data strategy.

It’s no longer enough just to have a big audience. You need to have a robust database filled with as much first-party data that you can amass, and a customer data platform (CDP) that can help you to activate that data into whichever marketing channels you’re leveraging in your business.

Upland Software provides a range of marketing technology products to help our customers navigate the cookie-pocalypse. How?

  1. Second Street and Rant & Rave – With Second Street our customers use interactive contests and quizzes to dramatically increase the amount of first-party data collection from their owned media channels. Rant & Rave then provides marketers with the voice of the consumer by proactively gathering feedback and sentiment to enrich your database with emotion and provide a best-in-class customer experience.
  2. BlueVenn – Our Customer Data Platform (CDP) unifies first-party customer data from across all parts of your business. Then it uses identity resolution and data cleansing algorithms to create a Single Customer View to activate across all online and offline marketing channels. Campaigns can be unified into one workflow for omnichannel orchestration of customer journeys across email, web, social, advertising, mobile, and any offline channels.
  3. Mobile Messaging, Adestra, Localytics, and PostUp – Our range of robust and powerful email, mobile, and SMS products allow our customers to execute personalized, meaningful campaigns across a full range of digital channels and leverage first-party data in effective ways that drive more revenue.

If you want help optimizing your company’s strategy ahead of the cookie-pocalypse, we’d love to partner with you.

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