No more alternative identifiers says Google, first-party data is king

Last week, Google published a blog post detailing their position on leveraging alternative user-level identifiers once third-party cookies are deprecated, noting their consumer privacy concerns and how such an identifier would be used in their proprietary advertising technology platforms. The biggest takeaway from the announcement is that Google does not intend to directly use alternative user-level identifiers that track individuals across sites within the company’s product portfolio.  

As Google gears up for the exodus of third-party cookies from its Chrome platform, this announcement further underscores the need for brands to build first-party relationships with consumers.  

At Epsilon, first-party data is at the heart of the work we do. We, along with our partners, believe in the spirit of the open web and have equally effective solutions that leverage authenticated traffic to serve personalized media just like Google does on its owned properties. If anything, our approach to respecting consumer privacy while addressing the needs of clients who want to reach their target audiences with personalized media and expect performance transparency is only strengthened by Google’s announcement.  

Higher walls, and a renewed focus on cohort-based targeting, in the garden 

Google’s announcement comes on the heels of recent privacy updates and announcements from the company and its competitors. Although well-intended, these changes shut the larger marketing ecosystem out from actionable data while allowing the large consumer platforms to continue building walled gardens, shifting marketing strategies in their favor in the name of greater privacy for consumers. For many brands, this further underscores their need to find a balance across their dependence on the walled gardens, other partners and their owned brand interactions—noting the relatively outsized importance a few players have had in their marketing strategies in the past decade 

So what’s Google doing instead of an alternative to third-party cookies? As part of their Privacy Sandbox (currently in development), Google plans to rely on aggregated cohort segments based on a user’s browsing behavior, or Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). They also expressed that they believe emerging identity graphs under consideration by others in the adtech ecosystem that rely on PII identifiers, like email, will not meet the longer-term privacy expectations of consumers and regulators. 

This change has little effect for Epsilon:  

  • Epsilon Digital Media Solutions clients will continue to reach and engage people-based audiences with personalized messaging and performance transparency.  
  • Any DSP, including DV360, will still be able to buy against private marketplace (PMP) deals that are established between clients and SSPs (e.g. Pubmatic, Magnite etc.). So Epsilon will continue to activate PeopleCloud audiences on behalf of our clients via publisher authentication and PMP deals. 
  • For clients buying media on Google properties (e.g. YouTube) Epsilon can push consented first-party data for activation.  

Epsilon publisher partners also can expect zero impact on Epsilon’s publisher identity solutions that leverage trusted first-party relationships 

What’s next 

As privacy continues to be the driver for announcements like Googles, Epsilon remains at the forefront. We started building our CORE ID solution in 2007, and for the past 10 years we’ve worked to develop publisher relationships and solutions like Epsilon Publisher Link. Together, these solutions support our strategy to continue driving outcomes for our brand and publisher partners in a cookieless world.  Our cookieless strategy and solutions are designed with privacy in mind to evolve with the ever-changing regulatory environment and adhere to opt-out and consent best practices—something we’ve long invested in.  

Because of this head start, today, our CORE ID accounts for 200+ million individuals, reachable through our network of 5,000+ high-quality publishers, including The New York Times, eBay, TripAdvisor and Time, to name a few.  

As we built solutions for the future of the industry, we knew it would be critical to not focus on any single identifier if we were going to succeed. Instead, our people-based CORE ID anchors to deterministic names and postal addresses associated with transaction data, making it highly reliable. This data is stripped of any personally identifiable information before it comes into our walls and gets activated in the digital ecosystem, keeping consumers’ information properly safeguarded and aligning with evolving regulations.   

We share Google’s perspective on the vital importance of consumer privacy and building first-party relationships, which is why we have developed a suite of Epsilon PeopleCloud products and services, empowering marketers and publishers to build and activate their first-party data strategies.  

One thing is clear in the marketing ecosystem: Always expect changes. We’ve been in this business for more than 50 years, and we’ve seen and weathered similar seismic shifts across the industry. We’re always anticipating and building for the future.