The digital ad industry is finally having its ‘change or die’ moment

Ad tech companies

What comes after cookies is more obvious than many ad tech companies would like to admit.

IAB held its Tech Lab Summit earlier this month. These gatherings convene digital ad players for honest debate and discussion about big-picture tech challenges. 

And honest they were. 

IAB Tech Lab CEO Anthony Katsur has been sounding the warning bell about what comes after the cookie all year. In theory, members are on board. A survey last year found that 98% of publishers support cookieless solutions. 

The industry’s trusted consulting partners are saying it. Regulators are saying it. (We’ve been saying it for quite a while now.)

The writing isn’t just on the wall, it’s lit up in giant neon letters. 

So what’s the hold-up? 

In short, important market voices like IAB recognize the dire need to move away from the cookie. But agreement on what comes next and how to get there? Well, that’s nowhere in sight. (Even Google can’t figure it out.)

There are two competing philosophies among stakeholders at the moment. 

One originates out of Silicon Valley and maintains that so long as you anonymize data, you can maintain privacy. We’ve seen firsthand the challenges with this approach. Even so-called anonymized data can be deconstructed or reverse engineered to determine the actual person it is based on.  

The other philosophy is the one with which BRIDGE is aligned: personally identifiable (PII) information should power campaigns that only reach real people who have opted in to receive messages. This mindset leads to a straightforward campaign approach and continues to gain traction among influential stakeholders and thought leaders.

The first philosophy? By now, everyone has seen that the approach leads to complications, and right now figuring out how to evolve is confounding the industry in a major way. It’s just unnatural to try to permission a piece of data that’s been collected in a pseudo-anonymized way. Without being able to confirm an actual person lies behind the data, you can’t deduplicate records or ensure they’re permissioned. Everything after that just kind of falls apart. 

It’s not for lack of trying. There have been attempts at roadmaps and even launch of full-fledged solutions by Big Tech companies (once again, I submit the trials and tribulations of Google). But in the end, it’s getting harder and harder to market to anything but a real bonafide, breathing person. 

I applaud the IAB for publicly acknowledging that this is a major moment of reckoning, especially given that it hasn’t yet homed in on a solution. For its part, they have recognized an opportunity to progress with solving challenges related to security. But really it’s privacy that will prove the formidable nut to crack. 

Honestly, to hear IAB discuss the problem, it’s more obvious than ever that a PII-based approach is the answer. It is already compliant with CCPA, CDPA, and some of the emerging languages we’ve seen additional states discuss. 

Maybe the industry will figure this out eventually. In the meantime, advertisers have an elegant option that we believe is better positioned than ever for urgent adoption. Get in touch with us today to learn more. 

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