This article is the fourth in our “Everything you need to know about the post-cookie apocalypse” series. In this article, we discuss the promise of legacy programmatic versus reality.
One reason for marketers to dial back panic is that personal identifiers have fueled years of really bad advertising.
As Norm de Greve, chief marketing officer of CVS opines “I spent 14 years at Digitas, and one of my roles there was running the analytics group. I saw the development of all the programmatic targeting technology, the data exchanges, all of this. All that was about putting ads in front of people most likely to buy. And I don’t think the manifestation of that has been that great. We’ve all seen the retargeting ad for the product we’ve already bought or have no interest in. I don’t know of anyone who says, ‘Wow, my advertising experience is just awesome now.’”
Some targeting is just inexplicable, such as display ads that have been stalking an Ad Age reporter in recent weeks with information about a blood disease he doesn’t have—paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH).
Indeed, almost no one has the disease—as few one in a million people, according to some estimates. But biotech firm Apellis is out to raise awareness about the illness as it recruits patients to an early acceptance program for its new PNH drug with help from demand-side platform MediaMath.
Apellis didn’t respond to email requests for comment on what someone might have done to elicit ads about the rare disease. Nor did MediaMath have any specific explanation, but said it uses third-party identifiers to help advertisers “drill down into audience segments and build specific profiles based on location, demographic data, interests, etc.” MediaMath says it encourages clients to use “reasonable frequency capping.” Even so, the reporter has been seeing Apellis’ PNH ads several times daily for six weeks.
Even when targeted ads reach the wrong target, that’s still probably better than reaching no one at all, which is what cookie-driven programmatic ad buys often do. Cookies underpin a programmatic marketplace rife with fake identities making fake clicks on fake websites—but at really favourable prices if you don’t count the fact that they don’t reach real people, says Augustine Fou, cybersecurity and ad fraud consultant. He’s a decided sceptic of widely used fraud detection technology that his research shows is regularly outsmarted by fraudsters.
“Doing away with third-party cookies from Chrome will not harm advertisers, just their egos, because ad tech targeting was awful, to begin with,” Fou says.
“Advertisers don’t need to know which individual bought their product,” he says. “They just need to know that individuals (plural) that were exposed to ads ultimately bought their product. Third-party cookies allowed ad tech to prolong the fiction that microtargeting was magical, so they could keep selling microtargeting services.”
That doesn’t’ mean the new world order will be fraud-free, Fou warns. Google’s FLoC IDs can be forged just like individual identities, which will allow bots to pretend to be FLoC audience groups rather than individuals.