Publishers Prepare for a Future Without Ad-Tracking

In recent years, browsers have inundated users with updates to block ad-tracking. Apple is the most visible crusader against tracking and other forms of data harvesting, but others such as Firefox and Chrome are not far behind. Indeed, there are reports that Google is developing a tracking proof version of Chrome.

Risk of losing clients

Readers can understand why publishers have been rattled by the relentless onslaught on one of their leading sources of revenue. Some of the concerns are warranted. For instance, the latest Apple update prevents publishers from following visitors once they click external sites. This development will negatively impact attribution marketing because advertisers will be reluctant to include publishers with contentious contribution in their budget.

Publishers are likely to experience increased pressure to increase conversions from their direct-response campaigns in the wake of Apple ITP 2.2. The new ITP regulations will only ramp up the pressure because clients will require agencies to prove that the investment is value for money. It is not inconceivable that some publishers will lose out.

A casual look at the history of anti-tracking updates offers hope to publishers as the first updates in 2017 hit them hard, but they soon found ways of recovering the lost revenue. One strategy was monetizing first-party data to increase revenue from the target audience while weaning themselves off third party cookies.

Why Google is slow to control tracking

Other publishers appreciate the threat posed by this development, but are not too bothered by Apple’s actions. Currently, the Safari browser accounts for only 4% and 26% of desktop and mobile browsing traffic respectively. It is the prospect of Google introducing similar measures that is concerning for most publishers as an ITP version of Chrome could be the death knell of most publishers.

Currently, Chrome holds 66% of desktop and 63% of mobile impressions and is the lifeblood of most publishers. Google is yet to introduce ITP updates, but industry insiders believe that it will inevitably yield to pressure from consumers and regulators to reign on privacy violations by third-party cookies.

However, it is not all doom and gloom for publishers as Google will be reluctant to introduce browser updates that will hurt its revenue. Unlike Apple, Google is very reliant on ad revenue, and any attempt to limit data collection by third parties is likely to be implemented in phases over a long period.

The shift is inevitable

Industry insiders opine that ITP updates on Chrome would severely impact publisher revenue, forcing them to change tack. Other marketers believe that programmatic advertising will eventually wean itself of third-party cookies. It is likely that Google and others who are heavily invested in the ad industry will work a way around the reliance on cookies to generate leads. Ultimately, publishers will have to take the lead in creating new identifier solutions. In the meantime, major stakeholders are betting on ID consortiums to find new strategies for driving ad revenue.

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Martech is a complex topic where technology and processes are constantly evolving. I’ve tried to make sense of this complex industry by explaining ideas in an unbiased way, looking at events and technologies holistically, and shining a light on participants and practices when warranted.

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