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Some Cookieless Alternatives … Still Use Cookies

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Some Cookieless Alternatives … Still Use Cookies

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Brands are facing some pressure to test alternatives for targeting and measuring audiences once third-party cookies on Chrome disappear, scheduled for the end of this year.

However, some solutions on the market that purport to prepare buyers and publishers for a future without cookies still use—and are greatly improved by—third-party cookies for targeting.

The use of third-party cookies while they are still working is not an issue, but some practices lurch toward misleading. Within the alternative ID space, which includes dozens and dozens of solutions, some use a technique called ID bridging.

Essentially, a buyer might use the tech to target users in cookieless environments—today iPhones and Safari, but next year the entire internet once Chrome depracates. But these solutions use third-party cookies from Chrome to identify users and then use certain signals (like an IP address) as a bridge to find these same users on Safari.

These solutions have the potential to mislead buyers who might not be fully aware of how their alternative IDs are achieving such effective results but are unlikely to be viable alternatives next year.

“It’s stuffing a cookie ID in a cookieless bid request,” said Mathieu Roche, CEO of alternative ID solution ID5.

ID bridging is emblematic of the long, messy road ahead of the programmatic advertising industry for testing, and ultimately embracing, alternatives to third-party cookies. One of the leading alternatives, Google Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox, has drawn criticism from the industry for being too unlike the current ad-tech system.

But deterministic alternatives that more fully match the functionality of third-party cookies are hard to test in isolation today, when cookies are still flying around the bidstream. Amid this confusion, deceptive techniques may gain a foothold.

Roche said he became aware of ID bridging in the past 18 months when clients asked if ID5 would perform the ID bridging technique (Roche said ID5 does not engage in this practice).

Michael O’Sullivan, co-founder of Sincera, said he first observed the practice in previous ad-tech roles, but he’s noticed it emerge as a technique since he founded the data firm.