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Building an authentication strategy in a cookie-less world

10 Jul 2020  |  Jason White 
Building an authentication strategy in a cookie-less world

Partner content: LiveRamp's Jason White explores how publishers can develop a first-party authentication strategy that will deliver value for consumers, publishers and marketers alike

As we move towards a post-cookie internet, publishers need to prioritise alternative, privacy-first methods to identify visitors and effectively monetise their sites programmatically.

Among the usual challenges that publishers face, we are also faced with a period of economic uncertainty, and brands are under heightened scrutiny to ensure every pound spent is addressable and accountable.

Publishers are feeling increased pressure and urgency to develop a first-party authentication strategy that will survive the demise of the third-party cookie while providing consumers with the transparency, choice, and control they've come to expect.

Such a relationship requires a value exchange between the publisher and individual -one where individuals identify themselves to the trusted party (the publisher) in exchange for value, which could be quality content, an experience, a service, or a transaction.

Successful authentication strategies are grounded in trust, and can deliver upon the promise of value for consumers, publishers, and marketers alike, and enable addressability.

Not all cookie-less solutions are created equal

In the race to provide addressability in a cookie-less world, publishers should be mindful of adopting solutions that are incomplete or lack sufficient privacy and security controls like fingerprinting or hashed emails.

For example, fingerprinting is widely considered invasive and produces unreliable identifiers affected by any changes in browser or device settings. Furthermore, hashing algorithms are reversible and the hashed emails themselves can also be unreliable if they’re duplicates or spam accounts.

So what’s the alternative? The answer is creating a trusted and transparent ecosystem where first-party authentication is prioritised, and reliance on third-party cookies is eliminated.

To achieve this, publishers need to develop a robust strategy around authentication events, like user log-ins or newsletter subscriptions, which will enable them to gather valuable, permissioned first-party data.

This authenticated personal data can then be translated to pseudonymised identifiers, which can be leveraged by the programmatic supply chain across the open internet.

By using this strategy, publishers can enhance addressability across all cookie-less inventory, including previously inaccessible inventory from Safari and Firefox.

As a result, publishers can connect their inventory to the advertiser’s target audience with precision, simultaneously increasing CPMs while maintaining consumer trust. Further underscoring why first-party authentication is the gateway to sustainable, scalable growth for publishers.

It's worth noting that while most publishers may not achieve high authentication rates immediately, even a 10% authentication rate will lead to better monetisation.

This is especially true on previously unaddressable inventory like Safari and Firefox; furthermore, people-based solutions circumvent the data leakage endemic to cookie syncs, providing greater reach due to 1:1 matching.

Increasing authenticated traffic should always be a key aim for publishers, and below are some ideas on how this can be achieved.

Be transparent and give users choice

The success of walled gardens where users log in to access the site are a case in point that as long as the user derives some utility or benefit, they are happy to provide details as part of a value exchange.

Publishers should bear this in mind and be cognisant of the need to explain how data is used and what the benefits are to the user. An effective consent management platform will help publishers ensure they respect user wishes and articulate the purpose of the information being shared.

When users are better informed and trust a publisher has their interests at heart, they are more likely to authenticate.

Be creative

Authentication isn’t only about logins, although this is the most common method; publishers can experiment with user forums on popular pages where sign in is required to participate.

Publishers should also embrace creativity in the pursuit of obtaining consent. Tap into the user’s interests to offer content that is right for them, or consider how sites or promotions could be personalised as an incentive to provide their personal data.

If they are a sports fan, they might be open to push notifications that tell them when the next big game is on. While someone interested in fashion might want to know when a designer’s new collection will launch.

Reward loyalty

Loyalty clubs and programmes boost user engagement and are also excellent drivers to further incentivise users to authenticate. It's also a great opportunity to include discounted premium subscriptions to brands that would appeal to a publisher’s audience, i.e., a wine club or perhaps offers to group attractions.

Alternatively, running prize draws and competitions that are exclusively for readers who are opted in can work well. The Times+ loyalty programme is said to be so successful that acquisition rates have quadrupled since the platform was created.

Be relevant

By utilising first-party data as part of an authentication strategy, publishers have a unique opportunity to truly understand their audience and their interests, and in turn share this insight with marketers.

They should also provide consumers with options on the content they receive and create a feedback loop to key them in on the value exchange.

From there, more analysis can surface new opportunities.The key takeaway here is that as long as targeted advertising or experiences are clearly communicated to the user, there is no reason to fear personalisation.

At the end of the day, it is important for publishers to be able to demonstrate that every impression agencies and brands buy is addressable and accountable. While this is always true, it is especially so during a recession.

Publishers that work in partnership with agencies, brands and technology partners such as LiveRamp to make their authentication strategy as robust as possible will be the ones that achieve more business continuity in the wake of persisting industry trends and headwinds.


Jason White is senior vice president and head of publishers at LiveRamp

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