Post-Cookie-Era Update Feb 2021

Published by: Keith Gooberman
Chief Executive Officer

Is addressability coming to an end? 

No, but policy changes will impact about 50% of today’s addressable scale.  If implemented, digital advertising will dramatically change with these alterations. In this blog post I explain what changes are around the corner, speculate how this plays out, and address how Programmatic Mechanics and Pontiac Intelligence are preparing for all possible scenarios.

What is happening?

Two separate things are happening over the next 12 months that will impact addressability.

  1. Apple is making changes to iPhone and iPad operating systems which will have an impact on advertising, addressability, and tracking.
  2. Google is changing the Google Chrome browser to no longer allow cross-site tracking via cookies.

What channels are impacted?

Desktop Display advertising and Mobile-in-app advertising are impacted. CTV is not impacted. Native advertising is primarily driven by click-based actions, and therefore will also feel little impact.

Most scaled advertisers, agencies, trading desks, and technology companies are now pretty diversified across the four different channels. This will impact about 30% of OUR portfolio across Programmatic Mechanics & Pontiac Intelligence LLC.

Google Chrome Change Jan 2022

Google Chrome announced 12 months ago that as of 1/1/2022, third-party cookies will no longer be available on Chrome browser. By default, Chrome browsers update automatically when the new version is available. So, this could roll out quickly in the beginning of 2022.

What does this mean?

Right now, Safari & Firefox do NOT allow third-party cookie tracking. ProgMechs & Pontiac see about 25% of our desktop ads served to those devices. That is significant considering those browsers rarely have OPTED-IN to cookie-based advertising.  We expect this change to impact 95% of Chrome browsers which is about 60% of the entire market. For those Chrome users who do nothing, they will no longer have 3rd party cookies enabled on their browser.

90% of browsers will no longer allow:

  • Behavioral Targeting, including Remarketing
  • DMP integrations
  • Post-View Attribution

Is this definitely happening?

I estimate the likelihood of this happening at about 95%. Google makes their money on advertising, unlike Apple. By making this change, they will either need to make many of their products less effective, or flagrantly provide themselves an advantage by owning Google Chrome, Google Ads, and DoubleClick’s Ad Server in monopolistic fashion.  Since Apple and Safari already made this change, there is precedent. However, Apple doesn’t make the majority of its revenue through advertising. In fact, it’s a very small part. Google, on the other hand, is predominantly advertising revenue.

How does this impact programmatic and social advertising?

There are two major changes which will have dramatic impacts on the performance of display advertising.

  • Remarketing scale will be severely limited. Chrome accounts for 80% of remarketing delivery due to it being the largest browser which accepts cookies by default. Additionally, most of the remarketing is done on desktop computers.
  • Post-View attribution will no longer work. Post-click attribution will continue to work, but many campaigns look far more efficient when post-view attribution is counted.

Now, many solutions will be handicapped dramatically. Third party-data companies, dynamic remarketing companies, DMPS, and CDPs are in trouble.  With the removal of the third-party cookie, companies cannot identify individuals. Facebook advertising will also not look as strong due to the inability to consider post-view attribution as well. But, most of Facebook’s conversions are driven by click and the platform is exceptional at driving users to take action. Banner ads are not as effective as driving click conversions. Hence the concentrated fear on the programmatic side.

Recently, Google has announced a proposal called Floc: Federated Learning of Cohorts. This is a potential solution for audience data and audience targeting. Using the Chrome data of millions of browsers, each individual browser declares which audience category they are in based on browsing behavior. It is extremely controlled by Chrome, but probably better than actual third-party data. However, it does not solve the main two issues at stake (remarketing & attribution, as discussed).

Wait, but what about the new email hashed Identity Resolution solutions?

OK, so here is the idea: Publishers who require users to log in will have the ability to associate that user with their email. These Identity solutions are stitching together different publishers and then using a hashed version of the email address in the auction process to allow 1:1 targeting. There is a long list of companies trying to put this together. The ‘hottest’ new area of ad tech.
• BritePool (BPID)
• Fabrick ID
• Criteo ID for Exchanges
• Halo ID
• ID+
• ID5 Universal ID
• IdentityLink
• IDx
• IntentIQ ID
• LiveIntent ID (NonID)
• LiveRamp IdentityLink (IDL)
• Lotame Panorama ID
• Merkle ID
• netID
• Parrable ID
• PubCommon ID (SharedID)
• Pub Provided ID
• Quantcast ID
• Tapad ID
• Unified ID (The Trade Desk)
• Verizon Media ConnectID
• Zeotap ID+ solution

WOW. That is a lot of companies. They all must be going after publishers at the moment to lock them in so this shared ID will allow outside bidders to continue purchasing publisher’s ad space at a premium (using addressable data).

There is one major issue. This will only work on websites where the user is forced to log in, which is a very small portion of the web. These folks are the most ‘addressable’, meaning the data around them will be richer than the third-party cookie data today, but lower scale. Based solely on speculation, I believe this to be about 5%-10% of Chrome’s traffic. One nice thing is this will also work on Safari and Firefox, so this would improve addressability 10%-15% across the whole ecosystem.

As discussed in the IAB Europe Guide to the Post-Cookie-Era, there is also one other company which could have an advantage: the telecommunications companies who own the customer relationship. These folks already have many devices logged in through their internet provider settings, and this could be leveraged across their advertising relationships for addressability. Although, it will vary from telco to telco and they have not released much yet.

Another gigantic factor moving at its own pace: Google

Google has said they will not remove third-party cookies and leave everyone out to dry with no solution to the current uses of third-party tracking. As Chrome developers continue to derive solutions, they have only introduced their solution for behavioral targeting. I’m confident they are working on solutions for remarketing and post-view attribution. If they create something comparable, then much of this speculation might fall to the wayside.

How are ProgMechs & Pontiac planning to handle this change?

Most of our clients are doing some form of remarketing. And, in about 50% of those cases, it is a major driver of performance for a direct response driven advertiser.  Additionally, many clients rely on post-view cookie attribution to measure the success of their efforts.

At this point, nothing is certain. There is no clear solution to employ that will fix the issues at hand. This is largely because Google has not finished releasing their proposed solutions. Further, privacy regulation could strip the other solutions viability before they even get off the ground.  Given this uncertainty, it does not make sense to announce a clear path forward.  Rather, we seek to ensure our clients that we are educated and diversified in each area to test and engage with whichever solutions appear viable.

We have major DSP relationships with partners who are incentivized to adapt to these issues.  Yahoo is a tremendous network on where their platform (Verizon) will still allow us to do intelligence targeting. We have a seat on DV360 from Google which will enable us to use whatever solution they bestow upon themselves. We have a relationship with Amazon which allows us to do attribution for folks who sell on Amazon and since they control the check-out process and will still allow for solid measurement. We are a LiveRamp reseller. For the Identity Resolution Solutions, they will be the market leader (or very close) since their core business has been dealing with publisher email hashes for 10 years now.

We execute a tremendous amount of media through Xandr, which has two advantages.  Pontiac is built on top of Xandr bidders, making up 30% of our business.  First, if any of the Identity Resolution Ideas gets traction and emerges as the leader, then they have a large and strong engineering team which can incorporate new identifiers very quickly. Second, they are tied in with AT&T, who can use their large user base to build smart identity solutions.

Finally, there will still be smart ways to target users and track attribution. All click based attribution will remain in place since the referring URL to the landing page will continue to pass. Most successful advertising campaigns have a portion converting on click and this can be used as we go forward without change. Also, contextual based targeting continues to advance. We now build our own URL lists and can target and report on the FULL URL string, preparing us for advanced and transparent contextual targeting. And, market analysis and A/B testing will be more prevalent.

Apple’s iOS 14.5 Change

Apple is changing how iPhones and iPads share their mobile IDs with advertising platforms. Many folks have already had this update hit their phone as part of 14.4, but when 14.5 is released, it will be universal.  The rollout is expected by mid-March according to online conjecture.

What does this mean?

Apple is not going to allow the sharing of the phone’s Mobile Device ID, called the Identifier For Advertisers or IDFA, without the users explicit OPT-IN permission.  We have seen this already impacting the ability to target and track on Apple Devices.

Is this definitely happening?

Yes. Apple does not have a good relationship with the advertising community, and they prioritize privacy for the end user. This roll out is definite.

How does this impact programmatic and social advertising?

We do a LOT of different executions and orchestrations across different programmatic and social campaigns. It’s helpful to break this down into specifics. Of all the available impressions in the mobile space, this will account for about 45% of all impressions. That is considerable, but it is not a universal change. Android devices have not given indication they will be removing the advertising device ID.

Mobile Data Companies & Geo-Location Companies

  • Putting together user profiles based on app visitation, past geo-location behavior, Facebook activity, or offline-data is now going to be limited to 5%-10% of iPhone and iPad devices.
  • Active geo-targeting will still be available on apps which have access to the geographical location of the user (“User has allowed location data”). This is no change from today.
  • Facebook’s FAN network will no longer be able to identify Facebook users OUTSIDE Facebook. This doesn’t impact us because we don’t buy programmatic display inventory through Facebook.

App Install campaigns and Attribution

  • This removes the ability to do attribution back to the app which served the ad unless the app and the user have given consent to share the IDFA. This will be a giant issue for the CPI-driven companies who don’t share where they serve the ads.
  • App Attribution on both a post-click and post-view level will be limited to the OPT-IN selection and Android devices.

How are ProgMechs & Pontiac planning to handle this change?

  • CPI-based advertising – We do not do much of this due to proliferation of these organizations which promise very low CPI results. I would imagine this shows an increase in Apple App Store campaigns for install results, which is somewhere we are experienced. We likely will begin to offer more of this service.
  • Behavioral data and audience targeting – We already have IP-based audience profile companies engaged to enable basic audience profiling. And, we have PMPs set up with major publishers who will be able to produce basic audience targeting across their apps and publications.
  • Geo-location attribution campaigns and Device ID targeting – we have not seen a large impact on our ability to attribute or target on these campaigns. Only about 15% of the in-store attribution is happening on iOS devices today. For expanded targeting we will be able to use Android details and look-a-like model some basics across iPhone devices. This will not be perfect, but it will still allow us to be intelligent with our ad placement.
  • Micro market tests – we will still have the ability to geo-fence and geo target live groups of people. We will also continue to be able to serve our ads targeted to the zip code level. Micro On/Off and incrementality testing will become part of each campaigns KPIs, which we already can deliver today across Programmatic Mechanics & Pontiac Intelligence.


As said in the onset, this does not destroy addressability or the ability to market to folks 1:1. But, it will create the need for marketers to develop methods for reaching and measurement effectiveness outside of the addressability available today. Once this shoe drops, things will move fast. Our focus is to partner with the largest, smartest, and most incentivized firms in the world to ensure they develop privacy compliant and scalable solutions. We will remain vigilant and educated on the happenings so we’re able to advise our clients and partners the best.

Listen, we would rather tell our clients we have the solution. This has been the strategy of many, many firms. But nobody has a solution at the moment. This is just the truth of the situation.


IAB Europe’s Guide to the Post-Cookie-Era

iOS 14.5 Update detail:

Chrome Detail about FLOC:

desirable than display.  But time will tell.