Privacy & Targeting
By Mark Bembridge, CEO & Founder

‘Privacy first’ will be the name of the ad targeting game in 2024

In Ciesco’s M&A Review, Smartology CEO and Founder, Mark Bembridge, featured as a Guest Editor and discusses how ‘Privacy first’ will be the name of the ad targeting game this year. With options ranging from cohort-based to Universal ID solutions, the sheer number of diverse options to brands and agencies poses a challenge. As 2024 continues, winners and losers will be defined by strategic investments in cookie alternatives.

Read Mark's insights below or read the full Ciesco report here.

With Google's Chrome Browser finally set to follow Apple's 2020 departure of 3rd Party Cookies on Safari, the underlying online ad targeting landscape is shifting rapidly. Over six in ten people worldwide use Chrome as their browser and Google's 3rd Party Cookie (3PC) deprecation is set to kick in during Q3 2024.

The impact of this on a multi-billion-dollar industry trained and hooked on 3PC audience targeting cannot be underestimated. During 2023 there was a collective sigh of relief when Google kicked the 3PC deprecation can into 2024 and since then, many senior execs have quietly relied on this happening again. But it is real, set to happen and folks are finally waking up to the fact.

With less than 9 months on the clock, there are in excess of 300 new identity solutions in the market vying to replace 3PC. While some of these are more mature than others, there is still no standardisation around 'identity'. In absence of this and with no clear frontrunner solution, it becomes challenging for the industry to back the right horse to invest in.

Identity solutions also vary significantly from cohort-based solutions to Universal ID solutions, and from seller-defined audience (SDAs) solutions to data clean rooms. Some like Universal ID require users to opt in, or in the case of SDAs require first-party data, which are challenging to scale. Others, like data clean rooms, only work from specific platforms, making adoption more difficult.

The contextual targeting market is unsurprisingly benefitting from the shift away from 3PC and is set to soar in the next five years as a more straightforward way to preserve privacy. Companies like Smartology build and utilise platforms that harness the spectacular progress of AI and combine this with the increasing focus of brands on content creation to add a new layer of technological sophistication to contextual content targeting. They no longer need to rely on basic keyword matching while improving overall accuracy and engagement.

The industry is waking up to 2024 where the testing of both identity and contextual targeting solutions is going to see rapid growth. Google’s Privacy Sandbox has finally started garnering serious attention where new privacy-first solutions can be tested by key industry players. However, there will be winners and losers based on how much time and effort is invested during 2024 on 3PC alternatives and how quickly companies can move away from drinking the 3PC Kool-Aid.

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