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Tag Archive for Google

The Identity Crisis

This entry was originally posted on The Drum as an Open Mic Article.

The exact date upon which the 3rd party cookie vanishes is tough to pin down. What we are reasonably certain of is that sometime in the second half of 2024 the Google team will release a version of Chrome that will have them turned off by default.

One of the foundational underpinnings of online advertising will cease to exist. Falling away will be the common key used to value and target ad opportunities, contextual signals used to build audience segments, attribution functionality used to gauge performance, not to mention the collateral impact that losing all these things will bring.

It’s important to explore both the direct and indirect impact of cookie deprecation to have as much of a complete picture as possible. If one becomes too focused on the direct impact, they will lose sight of the long-term and peripheral damage from the wake of this change.

The Open Web

The most obvious and directly impacted media will be the open web. While contextual advertising is back on the rise, prying cookie-based buying out of the hands of advertisers and agencies is impossible to do without the market forcing the transition.

Relying solely on cookied users up until the last minute is a game of chicken that will end careers. Those marketers unwilling or unable to adapt ahead of time may find themselves playing catch-up while their counterparts are thriving.

Cookies gave marketers a level of certainty that they were targeting the exact person or device that was appropriate for the campaign. Retargeting benefited greatly from this functionality once it was combined with the ubiquity of header bidding, RTB and programmatic stacks. Reaching the person who left the store after “just looking” frequently brought them back to buy the thing they were looking at.

Several agencies went so far as to acquire data companies. These acquisitions could easily turn to write-offs without intelligent, targeted investment in wholly new paradigms of finding and building audiences.

Walled Gardens

Many see the walled gardens as fairly insulated from the loss of cookies. It’s not true. The immediate impact that Apple’s ATT had on Facebook should be proof of that. Without an ability to read an ID in a 3rd party context, walled gardens lose much of their ability to extend their media buys across other properties or even show attribution metrics.

In these murky times, it’s unclear as to whether or not the open web will benefit by receiving more direct buys from advertisers, or if the advertisers will just double-down on the O&O of the walled gardens. It’s the same audience they were reaching before, but the deterministic signals are mostly stuck inside the walls now.


Without a cookie, data companies cannot pin behaviors to a user. They cannot build a deterministic profile. Everything online, absent something like hashed emails, which are scarce, becomes probabilistic, and temporally unstable. 

It’s not as though other IDs or designators don’t exist in different contexts, that’s a given. The problem is that the open web offers a richness of context unmatched by any other segment of media. Without that context and a reasonably stable identifier, audience segment diversity dwindles. With the web: auto enthusiast, charitable, camping, and a hundred other interests can be derived from browsing activity. Without the web: a dozen well-used apps, a few regularly watched TV shows, sports.

Bleeding Over

When the audience signals fade, the impact spreads far beyond the web. CTV, mobile, even Digital Out of Home targeting leverages the contextual segmentation from online, web activity. Identity graphs may do well to continue linking devices together, and create household profiles. That doesn’t help fill in the audience signal gap that sits behind the graph in the segment targeting of a campaign.

It’s not just the targeting, but the post campaign analysis that may suffer. With fewer signals, the audience becomes more difficult to discern. Understanding which group converts, where to target the follow-up, finding opportunities, all these things become, if not more difficult, less reliable.

Light in the Darkness

Some believe there’s yet one more reprieve from the 3rd party cookie’s impending demise. The chance of it living beyond 2024 is shrinking, not growing. All recent indications coming out of the Chrome camp suggest that they’re going to stick to their commitment to deprecation in 2024

The industry has been preparing for the loss of signal for several years now, thanks in part to Google moving the deadline. It was a good wake-up call. Solving the online advertising problems that arise from a lack of cookies, however, takes time. Thankfully, we’ve had just that, even if we aren’t likely to get any more.

Several tools are out there. Most are currently in a foundational stage, alpha and beta testing, and being applied in practice to browsers that are already cookie-cripled. Hashed emails (HEMs), 3rd party IDs, 1st party IDs, browser fingerprints, and IP addresses are just a few identifiers in play. Not all are as privacy friendly as some of the platforms and privacy advocates would like, and others might not be as popular (yet) with all industry players.

Even with these alternatives, buyers and sellers must still fundamentally shift the way they do business. None of these solutions offer the same level of coverage on user activity as the cookie does, even with only the one, mostly-dominant browser still supporting them. And some of these solutions will be threatened by the same forces that are pushing the cookie out.

Ad tech has been–and still is–in the process of hedging their bets, partnering with multiple solution providers, augmenting systems to recognize and leverage some of these alternative methods of identity, and talking about new ways of doing business that are more privacy friendly. Don’t be caught flat-footed. There’s work still to be done by everyone. But that’s why we all got into this business, right? There’s always another challenge around the corner.

Non-addressable is a “today” problem

Hero image for BlockThrough Podcast about non-addressable audiences

I sat down (virtually) with Neera Shanker from Blockthrough in December. We discussed a few market trends like non-addressable audiences, privacy regulation and the platform giants (Apple and Google).

In this episode, I actually know wtf I’m talking about. It’s only my second attempt at guesting on a podcast. And the first time I really had the appropriate expertise on a subject.

Here I’m talking about ad-tech and how non-addressable audiences (no cookie IDs and such) are an important area of focus. Many online publishers are not giving this topic enough attention. If that kinda thing is interesting to you, or you just like hearing the sound of my voice, give it a listen.

Tune in to learn about how I got started in ad tech waaaaaay back in 1997. The internet was a different place back then. It’s striking to remember how a small operation could have a large impact.

Then you’ll hear about my work at Yieldmo, my day job. Hint: I really like my job. In my best radio voice I talk about my typical day, challenges I’m helping to overcome, and how we measure success.

Finally, I evangelize the need for non-addressable solutions in the market. It’s a big issue that will require investment (time and money) in order to future-proof the industry.

If you’d like to grab the podcast in your favorite app, jump over to buzzsprout for the links.

Small business advertising

Rather than Small Business Advertising, I was going to title this post, “Eating your own dog food,” but I decided that a more descriptive title would get the benefit of SEO.  I recently took on the task of advertising for my wife’s small business, here’s our story.

Small Business Advertising for Leslie Smith MD

Leslie Smith MD

My wife’s acupuncture practice recently moved into a larger space; her patient capacity almost doubled overnight from one to two treatment rooms.  I say “almost” because she’s still just one practitioner.  With acupuncture, once the patient has been needled, they simply rest comfortably in pin-cushion mode.  The practitioner doesn’t need to be in the room.  That’s where my wife takes the opportunity to start treatment on a patient in room number two.

I took it upon myself to do some online advertising for her practice to fill up that second room as frequently as possible.  Now, my wife is not your typical acupuncturist.  She’s an herbalist, a holistic medicine practitioner and, most uniquely, an MD.  One would think that her résumé would do the marketing for her.  That’s not the case, obviously.  We have to let people know just how fabulous she is.  So, here’s the long story of how I used my background in advertising, my wits in video production and my fabulous wife’s personae to kick off her marketing push for the new office. Read more

How do SSPs work with Google Ad Exchange?

This post is getting old and might not be as relevant today. If you are looking for information on Google’s Exchange Bidding program you might check out this question on Quora.

I am not clear if SSP send a impression to a ad exchange and get ad from it, and how it works? I know ad exchange send a request to DSP then DSP send back response. But how SSP work with adx?
This question was asked on quora, below is my answer.

Ad Exchange nested in the Lumascape

Luma creates two distinct categories. One for Exchanges and another for SSPs.

In its purest form an SSP would only send bid requests to DSPs. Google’s Ad Exchange actually behaves like an SSP in this regard. The Ad Exchange, however, does not behave like a DSP. It does not receive bids from SSPs, nor would it bid on them if it did. Ad Exchange receives inventory via a traditional ad request using an ad tag.

Online advertising has very few companies filling a single role, such as the role of SSP. Most SSPs are also in the yield optimization business. In cases where a yield optimization platform runs an impression through their SSP technology and doesn’t receive a bid that wins the impression, it’s possible that the impression may be sent to Google’s Ad Exchange via an ad tag redirect.

In some cases the publisher may even be responsible for such an occurrence. The publisher might have a pass-back tag set up with their SSP which, in the event that there’s no winning bid, redirects traffic back to the publishers adserver which, in turn, would redirect the impression to Google.

Google does have DSP technology, but it’s not AdEx. It acquired a DSP company called Invite Media in 2010.




Opportunities and Challenges in a Fragmented Mobile Landscape

This is the first in a series of posts walking readers through the mobile advertising space. Stay tuned for more posts over the coming weeks. This is also posted on the Rubicon Project blog.

Fragmented Mobile

Fixing Mobile

Everyone recognizes that mobile advertising is a rapidly growing market. How fast is it growing? eMarketer has current year revenue estimates at $3.9 Billion. According to the Yankee Group mobile ad sales should nearly triple by 2016 to $10 Billion.  I think this estimate is low given the acceleration in market growth we’ve experienced so far this year alone. Revised eMarketer numbers now indicate nearly 100% growth for 2012 over 2011.  Further, eMarketer predicts that mobile will grow to over $23 Billion by 2016. This is much more consistent with Mary Meeker’s prediction of a $20 Billion mobile market.

Given this tremendous market opportunity, we have seen first-hand that numerous publishers are moving to mobile – building mobile applications, optimizing their web content and trying to figure out how to turn that mobile content into a dependable revenue stream. We are glad publishers are jumping in and are excited to be in the mobile space as well. However, we have also witnessed headwinds in this developing market and would like to use this blog to help publishers address these challenges.

The mobile display advertising space has some distinct challenges that fly in the face of the status quo of online display. These challenges conspire to make it more difficult for publishers to advertise across their mobile inventory. A primary complication is that there are three major operating systems (plus Blackberry), each with subtle differences that require research and technology to overcome. Let’s explore how each of these platforms differ.

Apple’s iPhones do not support Flash and ship with third party cookies disabled by default. The lack of Flash strongly affects the user experience and the ability to deliver Flash-based rich media creatives that render in online display (troublesome on iPad, where standard display ads are typically viewed with little loss of fidelity relative to their online counterparts). Additionally, the lack of third party cookies makes it difficult to perform simple audience targeting that we’ve grown accustomed to.

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 platform is touted as having twice as much HTML 5 support, but still lags behind Chrome (Android), Safari (iOS) and even Blackberry.  We are hopeful that Windows Phone 8 will support HTML 5 to the point that publishers and advertisers can leverage the same mobile web ads across platforms.  However, there is a possibility that a lack of full HTML 5 support will require custom ad units for this platform. On top of that, Windows Phone 8 may also ship with the new Do Not Track (DNT) flag turned on, severely limiting the ability for publishers to achieve higher rates through traditional tracking and targeting.

Google’s Android platform seems to be the most compliant to the needs of the industry.  Android supports 3rd party cookies, DNT is disabled by default, device IDs are available in the app environment and it even supports Flash.  Of course this all supports Google’s advertising business, but they’re nice enough to keep the platform open for a variety of complementary and competitive third parties. By creating an environment most closely resembling online display, Google has made it easier for publishers to incorporate Android to their mobile experiences.

Where does all of this fragmentation leave us? Many publishers have been successful in traversing this fragmented market. If you are new to mobile, it can be daunting to figure out where to start. A logical starting point is to figure out what mobile devices are most common among your audience and focus on building your mobile presence there (at least initially). That way you limit the number of challenges you have to deal with. Eventually you will have to accommodate users across a variety of devices and platforms, so working with a partner that is platform-agnostic is critical. Look for partners that have a history of ad serving across platforms and formats.

In this series of posts, I hope to help provide some insights to help publishers that are still trying to make sense of the market. What challenges do you face in mobile? What specifically would you like insight and tips on? Comment below and I’ll incorporate into the subsequent posts.