Digital advertisers still looking for recipe to thrive in cookieless world


Stirista MarTech AltDataStirista MarTech AltData

Marketers can’t call Google’s bluff anymore. The company finally removed cookies for 1% of Chrome users (or around 30 million people) back in January. And as the conversation around PAIR, Google’s new identity solution that allows publishers and advertisers to match first-party data to deliver personalized ads, gathers more and more momentum each day, there’s one thing we can be sure about — when it comes to the deprecation of cookies, this time, it’s for real.

With Google continually pushing back the cookie deprecation deadline, advertisers didn’t expect, or prepare, for the demise of cookies to actually happen. As a result, even with the cookiepocalypse bearing down on them, most programmatic buyers still haven’t embraced cookie alternatives.

Now, advertisers are scrambling to find the solution. And it might just be that alternative data, a type of big data that ironically went mainstream for the finance industry, might also be a gamechanger for digital advertising. Alternative data is a promising solution in the chaos of the cookie crumble.

Identity providers are having a heyday with creating solutions to fill in the gap that cookies will inevitably leave, spawning a number of ID solutions ranging from the Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0, LiveRamp’s RampID and Google’s PAIR and Privacy Sandbox. Many publishers don’t have the budget and investment capabilities to try them all out, so they’re relying on buyers to do the work for them. One alternative ID solution is expected to eventually rise to the top. 

While we wait on alternative IDs to sort themselves out, a complete reliance on first-party data still isn’t ideal, especially for smaller partners who must rely on retail media networks to provide them with that first-party data. The other methods, like contextual targeting, are beginning to fall by the wayside as advertisers continually seek the same returns provided by cookies. 

While first-party data, retail media networks, and even zero-party data still have their place, the market necessitates a number of tools to work together to support a post-cookie solution. In comes alternative data! Another soon-to-be-essential in the toolbox.

What is alternative data?

Initially used in the world of investing, alternative data went mainstream in that industry as hedge funds and investment managers began employing it to gain a leg up on competitors still heavily using its counterpart, traditional data.

In finance, traditional data consists of quarterly reports, company statements and other publicly available sources of data used to make investment decisions. Alternative data came to mean anything else, and now consists of data procured through the internet, satellite imagery, credit and debit transactions, mobile app data and more.

With time, alternative data moved beyond its initial world of hedge funds into the rest of the finance industry, and eventually, also into the hands of government bodies and policymakers, not to mention credit bureaus and commercial businesses. Now, it’s entering the world of marketing as a tentative additional solution to the cookie crisis. As traditional “cookie” data goes away, alternative data, the kind that can be acquired through geolocation information, public databases and the like, becomes part of the puzzle that replaces it.

When you layer AI tools on top of alternative data and the increasing digitization of information, the capabilities of using such large swaths of internet data and other sources becomes much easier to use. Alternative data may emerge as one of the pioneering cookie alternatives and advertisers are beginning to take note.

The boom of alternative data

The decades-long use of alternative data in the financial industry is proving to be a precursor for alternative data’s use in market research and consumer insights.

With solutions like nowcasting — a portmanteau of “now” and “forecasting,” which presents nearly real-time data to power things like dynamic pricing, alternative data may increasingly present the answer — or an answer — as the cookie continues to crumble.

The global revenue for alternative data is expected to reach $137 billion by 2030, according to Deloitte. That’s 29 times the global revenue for alternative data today. While investment management is expected to drive most of this growth, advertising may increasingly make up this revenue.

So what does alternative data really have to do with the disappearance of cookies?

While cookies may soon be gone, newer technologies, like AI and big data analytics, are only growing. The ability of machine learning to parse through alternative data and deliver valuable insights could be a game changer in the advertising industry. 

As cookieless solutions evolve from a nice-to-have, to a need, alternative data is primed to not only serve as a useful tool for investors, but for advertisers. 

Once cookies are gone, gone, really gone, alternative data will feel very mainstream. 

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