24/7 Points to Cookie Policies

Ad server 24/7 Real Media is touting its lack of a network cookie as a value-add for its ASP clients.

The New York-based firm’s Open AdStream technology handles ad delivery for several major publishers, including CondeNet, New York Times Digital and Forbes.com — and is highlighting the role its cookie policies play in helping those publishers set up new forms of advertising.

For instance, NYTD last year unveiled plans to launch “Surround Sessions” — advertising units designed to use banners, buttons and large rectangles ads to show only one advertiser to a user, during their visit to the site. Forbes.com recently said it would begin offering media buyers the option to purchase ads on the basis of “reach” and “frequency” — rather than impressions.

Both setups, 24/7 Real Media said, requires a “confidential cookie” — one that builds a consumer profile based on visitors’ activities at the site. Network cookies, on the other hand, are intended to construct profiles based on users’ activities across the Web at large.

It’s this control of proprietary data — that is, the fact that sites aren’t sharing consumer profiles with other sites — that 24/7 Real Media points to as its chief differentiator from competitors.

The thinking is that impression and clickstream data owned exclusively by the site that collects them, can generate more revenue for publishers. The firm said NYTD and CondeNet, which also uses “Sessions,” to charge on the average of $65 CPMs.

“Anyone in media knows that the value of the audience data is directly proportional to its exclusivity,” said Tom Capato, senior vice president of technology sales at 24/7 Real Media. “If an online publisher does business with some of the other technologies available … they share their audience profile data, making what they to sell to advertisers less valuable over time. Customers get to build their businesses freely through their audience data instead of building a database for someone else.”

Added Mike Smith, chief technology officer at Forbes.com, “Open AdStream helps us build new business models for our media, by helping us own our audience exclusively — all of which has the potential to provide more revenue opportunities.”

The argument is aimed specifically at 24/7 Media’s larger rivals, including DoubleClick and ValueClick — both of which use network cookies.

Still, an industry need for non-networked cookies for the most part remains unverified. A spokesperson from DoubleClick told InternetNews.com last month that the company could “easily” deploy confidential cookies — but that publishers using its DART ad server weren’t asking for the technology.

“We really haven’t seen a demand for that,” he said.

Additionally, networked ad servers have long contended that a network cookie adds to users’ surfing experiences and advertising effectiveness. In addition to being able to theoretically target ads based on browser profiles culled from data across the Web (and not limited to a single site), proponents highlight the ability for network-based profiles to prevent “ad burnout” by knowing which ads recently have been shown to users, and rotating them accordingly.

There’s also growing evidence that profile-based ad targeting is less lucrative than industry pioneers once believed — and thus, less important to the industry. For instance, while DoubleClick maintains a network cookie policy, the company actually closed its profile-based ad sales unit months ago, citing the expense of running such a practice, and the poor return on investment.

With the sector’s biggest player drawing such conclusions, it’s unclear whether network-based ad profiling has much of a future at all — a fact that would seem to somewhat undermine the necessity of 24/7 Real Media’s special cookie value-add.

Nevertheless, 24/7 Real Media says it’s moving forward with plans to make its agency- and advertiser version of Open AdStream — which features similar cookie policies, and which is currently deployed in Europe — available stateside later this year.

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