Digital MarketingDigital AdvertisingLiveRamp unveils new way to target ads using first-party cookies

LiveRamp unveils new way to target ads using first-party cookies

LiveRamp is an identity resolution provider. The beta of their new Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS) launches next month and will be available by August.

Identity resolution provider LiveRamp is out with a new and free solution that it says provides a first-of-its-kind consented way for advertisers to target users without third-party cookies.

Third-party cookies are under assault by the browser makers and privacy regulators because they enable tracking of online users across the web, without their consent. LiveRamp’s new Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS) is launching in beta next month and will be generally available by August.

How it works

Here, in a nutshell, is how ATS works, according to VP of Strategic Partnerships Travis Clinger:

A visitor goes to a publisher’s web site and logs in or signs up for a mailing list. If a log-in, the email address is part of the logged in profile. This ATS solution only works for users whose email address is known, not anonymous visitors.

As part of the login or signup process, the user is made aware that their info will be matched to LIveRamp’s massive IdentityLink database, which connects online data with offline data to create what the company describes as profiles of people, rather than simply trails of online browsing habits.

Clinger said the default choice is to accept the connection of this email address to IdentityLink, although a user can opt-out. Opting-out would also opt-out for all uses of ATS across all publishers.

After login or email signup, the user’s email address is passed through the header bidding wrapper that resides in the header of the publisher’s site. Header bidding is a process where advertisers and ad exchanges can directly bid against each other for space on a publisher’s page, as opposed to the “waterfall” auction process conducted by Google that many publishers felt short-changed them. The wrapper is the software envelope where the header bidding process takes place.

Token inside the first-party cookie

Clinger said that ATS is available for the popular prebid.js header bidding wrapper and that it will soon become available for another popular wrapper, from Index Exchange. The wrappers already provide a method for exchanging information with the ad ecosystem, he noted, which is why ATS lives there on the publisher’s site.

ATS in the wrapper passes the email address to LiveRamp’s IdentityLink, where it is matched with that user’s full profile. Then a token is generated through the wrapper and embedded into the cookie that the publisher’s site has dropped into the user’s browser.

Since that cookie comes from the site itself for its visitor, it is a first-party cookie, which means that Apple’s Safari browser will recognize it and other browsers will treat it better than they do third-party cookies.

The token in that first-party cookie then is also passed via the wrapper to supply-side platforms (SSPs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs), where it can be targeted with ads designed for that particular user. Although first-party cookies can only be read by the domain that dropped them – that publisher’s site, in this case – the wrapper lives in that domain and can extract and read that token, making the token available to outside parties.

Clinger said that this solution is the first widespread use of such tokens in first-party cookies, avoids the issues of third-party cookies, and doesn’t involve device or browser fingerprinting. The latter is an alternative method of cookie-less tracking that creates a device/browser “fingerprint” based on the unique configuration of the browser version, device type, operating system, settings and so on, but Clinger noted it has issues, such as a lower accuracy rate because it is probabilistic.

Building on the initiatives

First-party cookies generally have a lifespan of seven days, although they can be regenerated when a visitor returns to that site.

Clinger added that ATS builds on LiveRamp’s work with the initiatives launched by the Advertising ID Consortium, the Trade Desk, and the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s DigiTrust. Those initiatives are primarily designed to reduce the dozens or hundreds of third-party cookies that need to be synched between ad ecosystem providers, by instead sharing one or a few third-party cookies. But it still uses third-party cookies, which are dropped by parties other than the site itself, such as ad networks.

As for the adoption of its ATS system, Clinger said that LiveRamp – which has previously offered its IdentityLink free of charge to any DSP – is making ATS available for free to anyone. At present, he said, four out of five of the top SSPs have said they will participate, as have more than dozen DSPs.

While ATS is intended primarily for users of web browsers, including Apple’s Safari, LiveRamp said it can already track mobile users through its existing matching of Apple’s IDFA and Android’s AAID device ad IDs to IdentityLink, and it can map connected TV to IdentityLink via IP addresses.

What are your thoughts on using first-party cookies for targeting ads? Share them in the comments.

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