TripleLift General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer, Julia Shullman, spoke with reputable German publication W&V about the death of third-party cookies and the huge opportunity it presents for the digital advertising industry. The interview was originally published in German here, a translated version is available below.
W&V: How is TripleLift approaching the end of third-party cookies (TPC)? Is it a positive from your company’s perspective?
Shullman: The end of third-party cookies is a side effect of a much broader issue. The advertising ecosystem has become inefficient, complex and misunderstood — misunderstood by consumers and even the parties within the ecosystem.
On any given ad transaction, there could be upwards of 1,000 tech vendors receiving and using information associated with a cookie or device ID. So, while there’s been a lot of innovation, people have become fed up with disruptive, irrelevant ads and are concerned about how their data is used.
Publishers and advertisers have lost trust in their ad tech vendors. Many ad tech vendors are fighting to maintain the status quo. And the ad tech vendors trying to do the right thing, like TripleLift, find themselves sometimes stuck in the middle of publisher and advertiser commercial interests.
The industry has to therefore rethink advertising, and the foreseeable end of third-party cookies is an excellent opportunity to force this change. We now need to focus on providing a more transparent and efficient ad tech experience by focusing on offering ads that are informative, respectful, non-intrusive, and that fit within the flow of a publisher’s environment. This fits perfectly with TripleLift’s mission and product suite, particularly our native product offerings that provide more control over the rendering of assets to publishers.
W&V: Google has announced that third-party cookies will no longer exist in Chrome in two years time, which is a long time, but is it long enough for the ad industry to develop a successor?
Shullman: Historically, most industries only make radical changes when the clock is ticking.
Two years should be a reasonable amount of time, but the industry needs to take a major step back, define what we’ve gotten right and done wrong over the past 20 years, and really rethink how advertising should work today.
That requires defining the issues we are trying to solve, admitting to and putting aside certain commercial interests, and ensuring the right experts are working on the solution. That means a cross-functional team of product, technical, policy and legal experts well-versed in commercial interests, policy concerns and nuanced legal requirements.
W&V: The IAB launched Project Rearc last week. What do you think of this opportunity? Does it stand a real chance to make a difference in the industry?
Shullman: We see it as a great opportunity for the industry to bring together the right cross-functional team of experts across product, technical, policy and legal (globally) from publishers, ad tech, advertisers and agencies. As I said before, the key is that team acknowledging and putting aside certain commercial interests and honing in on a workable, simple and innovative solution that doesn’t just try to replicate the current ecosystem, but really learns from the industry’s failures to date to redefine how advertising should work today.
W&V: Is this a viable solution, given all the regulations in the various markets? Shouldn’t a solution for Europe and its DSGVO (GDPR) have a different source than, say, the U.S.?
Shullman: The internet is global. While regulations are, of course, different market to market, the industry should be able to define a baseline that allows for some adaptation market to market. As an example, almost all privacy regulations are predicated on the Fair Information Practice Principles and contain basic requirements like notice, transparency, choice and control. If we don’t do that, the industry will be stuck with a few large platforms, no choice of vendors and stalled innovation.
W&V: Are log-in alliances an existing alternative?
Shullman: Log-in alliances are certainly part of a future solution, but the underlying technical infrastructure needs to be revamped to properly support them.
W&V: What is the next step for brands that have not given enough significance to their own first-party data as of yet? Has the time come for a thorough rebuilding and reorientation in terms of advertising strategy?
Shullman: I’m not sure brands haven’t given enough attention to their data. Brands care deeply about their consumer relationships and messaging. Instead, I think brands need to better understand that the demise of third-party cookies without the right solution to replace them and the increase in privacy regulations make it harder, if not impossible, for brands to deploy and use their own data — not just for targeting but also for basic measurement and reporting.
W&V: Apart from IAB’s Project Rearc, do you see any current potential solutions for the succession of TPC?
Shullman: We support industry-led solutions designed to clean up the current inefficient and misunderstood ecosystem. Those solutions can be incubated and managed by an existing industry association like the IAB, which we believe is well-placed given its relationship with IAB TechLab.
What we’d hate to see is quarreling industry factions across different constituents or across different markets that ends with no viable industry solution, and the large platforms designing and deploying the ultimate solution not because it’s best but because the industry couldn’t get its act together to align on the right solution.
W&V: From your point of view, is there a danger that Google will create something that will ultimately make the company even more powerful than it is now?
Shullman: That is certainly a possibility. As previously noted, if publishers, advertisers and independent ad tech come together to work with Google and each other, we should be able to avoid that outcome as much as possible. Unfortunately in these situations, the industry tends to miss the big picture. Even when Google and others offer an olive branch and opportunity to help define standards, we can’t get out of our own way and end up losing out on a great opportunity to collaborate. We certainly hope we don’t lose this opportunity.