- April 27, 2023

Have the signal loss challenges of the future already arrived?

Jessica Trainor
Jessica Trainor
Head of Partnerships
Proximic by Comscore

It feels like just yesterday Google announced its plan to phase out the third-party cookie and sent the entire advertising industry into a tailspin.

Now, more than three years later and the initial panic has nearly subsided. The third-party cookie is still alive as the industry continues to field multiple delays from Google on their official deprecation date. Some are even speculating on whether it will even happen at all.

To many, these delays might make it seem as if user tracking and targeting remains unimpacted. But this couldn't be further from the truth.

While everyone screamed from the rooftops about Google's initial announcement, other browsers and government entities took quieter steps to restrict data tracking and usage in an effort to protect consumers. The result of these efforts leaves us in an entirely different audience targeting landscape than one that we were dealing with just a few years ago.

Proximic by Comscore partnered with Basis Technologies, a top-ranked demand side platform (DSP), to take a deeper look at what these changes mean for the programmatic advertising landscape. Together, we sought to answer the question, "How much of today’s programmatic inventory is still addressable with ID-based tactics and what does that mean for those advertisers who have not yet diversified their targeting tactics?”.

Want the TL;DR?
Programmatic impressions that contain IDs, including alternative IDs, are now in the minority. Advertisers who remain focused on the ID-based audience targeting tactics of yesteryear are experiencing significant scale challenges that will only continue to grow.

How we got here

Let's start with browsers
Safari, the second-most popular browser, and Firefox, the fourth most popular browser, have been blocking third-party cookies for over three years already. Collectively, they make up nearly 22% of all browser traffic globally, which means 22% of the world's in-browser activity is already not targetable using traditional cookie-based tactics.

Google Chrome remains the most popular browser worldwide with over 65% market share, by far the largest browser that continues to allow third-party cookie targeting.

This might have you thinking, "Great! I can still target at least 65% of the market using cookie-based methods." But zooming in further proves this isn't the case. Amongst those using Chrome as their browser, only 60% are still addressable with IDs. The other 40% are deploying data privacy tactics such as incognito windows or other privacy settings.

Next came IDFA
When Apple rolled out iOS 14.5 it provided users with the choice to block the IDFA identifier at the app level. Among other changes, the update required apps to ask users for permission to collect and share their data. This change resulted in a reported 96% of US iOS users politely declining tracking. This change single handedly wreaked havoc with the mobile universe, heavily impacting programmatic scale. Based on Proximic by Comscore’s data, the implications were that up to 70% of US programmatic mobile IDs vanished overnight.

Add compounding government regulations to the mix
Perhaps the biggest source of confusion regarding the identity landscape stems from the erratic and inconsistent government privacy regulations that continue to be enacted. For most advertisers who serve ads across state and country lines it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with and to adopt proper protocols.

Each of these legislative policies bring an added layer of complexity to how advertisers can and can’t use ID-based data and further restricts the proportion of users that remain addressable through ID-based programmatic targeting.

Where we stand today

The IAB recently released their State of Data report stating that 50-60% of programmatic inventory no longer had a user ID associated with it. While this percentage will vary based on the mix of available programmatic inventory at any given time, we sought to dive deeper to explore these figures.

Proximic Basic

So, what should marketers do about all of this?

All of the identity changes in the industry can be overwhelming. This has put the onus on platforms and data providers to bring better technology and solutions to the table.

The integration of Proximic by Comscore’s Predictive Audience segments into the Basis platform allows media buyers to easily access an extensive suite of performant, behavioral audience targeting segments delivered without IDs for maximum scale. These segments serve as the perfect complement for Basis clients’ ID-based campaigns, enabling them to activate a diverse targeting mix in their platform of choice in order to circumvent signal loss limitations.

Providing our advertisers with scale and accuracy for their programmatic campaigns is a priority. Basis Technologies empowers them with solutions like Proximic by Comscore’s Predictive Audiences so they have high quality effective options for reaching valuable customers.” said Ian Trider, VP of RTB platform operations, Basis Technologies.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to diversifying your targeting mix, check out our top recommendations below and avoid missing out on any more valuable ad opportunities.

Here are the top 3 things for advertisers to focus on in order to succeed in today’s identity landscape

  1. Find a data partner who offers targeting coverage across ID-based and ID-less audiences. With signal loss resulting in a significant portion of users being unreachable with IDs it's crucial to work with data partners who can help reach a target audience when IDs are present and when they are not. Diversifying targeting tactics now to reduce reliance on identifiers will ensure continued scale and performance as regulations and browser changes progress.
  2. Give equal attention and budget consideration to various targeting tactics in order to achieve scale. The data shows us it's no longer possible to reach a full user base with only ID-based targeting alone. Your strategy needs to leverage various tactics including your first-party data, partner data tied to user IDs and trusted third-party data providers offering advanced contextually driven solutions.
  3. Foster and take advantage of first-party data. To do this well, consider investing in high-quality third-party sources to enrich this data and fuel insights into consumer profiles beyond transactional data. Once enriched, advertisers can explore new ways of classifying and labeling first-party audiences for more accurate and scalable targeting.