The looming cookiepocalypse is radically reshaping the ad tech industry. While the perception is that the loss of 3rd party cookie targeting will reduce advertisers’ ability to reach the exact audiences that they want, the truth is that there are new solutions being introduced such as The TradeDesk UID (Universal ID) and Google FloCs (Federated Learning of Cohorts) that may well present reasonable alternatives to cookie-based targeting as we’ve known it.
There are also existing targeting strategies that are seeing renewed interest. One is the use of contextual advertising and the other is to leverage data that’s available in the Bid Stream.
What is the ‘Bid Stream’
The programmatic advertising ecosystem runs on an RTB (Real Time Bidding) model, where information is provided to ad buyers to enable them to bid in real time on potential ad placements. This is largely done in an open auction system where many bidders have the chance to get access to a particular ad spot in a particular moment in time.
In order to facilitate bidding in open auctions, and to create the most value for their inventory, publishers provide data back to SSPs that enable advertisers to decide whether or not to bid on a given ad impression opportunity.
Factors such as the presence of cookies (including 3rd party cookies for now), the physical location (in terms of latitude and longitude) and the IP address of the visitor, the domain of the publisher and the extended domain of the page the ad might be served on are available to the SSP and they use this information to bid on behalf of buyers that have shaped a set of requirements that’s a ‘fit’.
What makes this more interesting to advertisers is that this information is passed back through the adtech ecosystem to the DSP, whether or not a bid is won.
This rush of data is called the ‘Bid Stream’.
Why is Bid Stream Data Important?
Given the presence of 3rd party cookies, and the ability to match those cookies back to all types of data, including demographic information such as gender, income, credit score and more, the bid stream as it currently operates can be immensely valuable.
Other data provided back to advertisers in the bid stream include highly technical data such as the device type, screen size, CPU speed, device orientation, OS (Operating System), Carrier as well as the IP address, and location data such as the ZIP code and latitude and longitude as mentioned above.
The ‘bargain’ that was originally struck between advertisers and publishers is that publishers would provide this level of detail in order to demonstrate the value of their content as a place to create business value via advertising, and indeed this has worked well in many respects.
Why is Bid Stream data possibly the once again future of programmatic advertising? The data has been available to advertisers since nearly the beginning of the programmatic adtech ecosystem. However, the ease of use of cookie-based advertising to segment audiences pre-empted much interest in what else might be available for ad targeting. Bid stream data is now getting a second look.
Aside from the cookie, there are a lot of signals in the data about what someone’s interest might be. For instance, it’s possible to glean the meaning of the context of a specific page on a publisher's site. The page might be reviews about a particular type of vehicle for instance. This is a possible signal to vehicle manufacturers or dealers that this person is interested in (showing ‘intent’ in the vernacular) possibly purchasing that vehicle or one like it.
Location data can be useful for many types of advertisers, including stores, service providers, educational institutions, car dealers and more.
Savvy advertisers can map conversion data on their own sites to behavioral data of the last click, including the domain or app a person was on, their location, time of day, type of device they use and other signals to steer campaign bidding to optimum strategies based upon actual conversions.
Using Bid Stream data to optimize campaign performance in the way that it’s intended can be a powerful competitive advantage.
Meanwhile, publishers are potentially in a position to take back control of their own value. Tools like UID require publishers to obtain a login ID (an email address) that is matched to a device ID that the publisher can use to identify that user and track their behavior (essentially a first party cookie). The UID has the advantage of creating a SSO (single-sign on) environment across a wide range of publishers. The sign on will come with clearly defined uses of consumer data in exchange for getting access to the publisher's content. Google FLoCs holds the promise of enabling publishers to build contextual audiences that will have value beyond the impressions sold on their own site.
Savvy marketers are watching these developments and adapt as things evolve, but in the meantime they can take advantage of tools that already exist for campaign optimization.