According to Ofcom’s Online Nation 2021 UK adults spend more time online than their European counterparts – at 3hrs37m per day – though not as much as the US’ 4hrs38m! There’s a huge amount of insights but one standout was that Google/Facebook commanded 39% of all time spent online. There were a further 18 sites/apps dominating the next 22%, and a further 39% of time spent online divided across more than 180m sites. This is further reflection of both the possibilities in connecting with consumers and the key role of identity across the digital sphere.

CMA supervise Google’s identity plans

Late last week the UK’s CMA (Competition & Markets Authority) announced a number of pledges that Google had made in regards to identity and the killing off of 3rd party cookies.  The main pledge is to involve both the CMA and ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office – the UK data protection regulator) in the design of proposals such as its Privacy Sandbox (better late than never!) to ensure they don’t discriminate against its rivals in favour of its own advertising and adtech businesses, which could also result in unfair terms for Chrome users.

This collaboration between regulators is further reflection of consistent response from regulators in Europe towards big tech such as Google and Facebook, and the change they can bring about.  For instance, Google’s recent fine and pledges in France to bring more transparency in GAM; as well as the CMA’s announcement this week that they’re investigating Apple & Google dominance of the mobile ecosystem including their platforms, app stores and web browsers.

Furthermore in the CMA case, Google have agreed to increase transparency into how and when proposals will be implemented, as well as transparency in testing after also admitting that the “at least 95% of conversions per dollar spent” claim on FLoC vs cookie-based ads was a conclusion based on cross-site data:

Google admitted that its FLoC experiment did rely on real-time access to cross-site publisher data and frequency capping tied to cookies which, incidentally, will not be available once third-party cookies are fully phased out in Chrome.

For further insight into FLoC; Mozilla recently produced a ‘Privacy analysis of FLoC’ discussing some key concerns around the proposal – such as fingerprinting, more information leakage, and insufficient counter measures – some of which Digiday exposed as happening already with some publishers testing it out.

Amazon blocks Google’s plans

Meanwhile, Digiday reported that Amazon is blocking Google’s FLoC on most of its sites, to prevent Google gathering data on the products Chrome users are researching across the Amazon network.  There are a number of reasons Amazon may be blocking FLoC including boosting their own ad ambitions (e.g. Amazon’s ID initiative, its DSP, and APS business), and protecting its IP including the its vast trove of ecommerce search data (particularly with the upcoming Amazon Prime Day 21/22 June).

On the topic of Amazon data, EU privacy regulator is proposing a $425m fine – just 2% of their net income & 0.1% of sales revenue – over alleged violations of GDPR.  Whilst this could be a bump in the road for Amazon, their ad ambitions are pretty clear.  In AdExchanger’s brief summary of the Advertiser Perceptions’ SSP Report they found Amazon’s APS as the only other SSP, with GAM, to exceed a 40% usage rate at 49% vs Google’s 74%.  Whilst those numbers only represent integrations – not spend – it’s clear that publishers are adding/testing more pipes for their inventory, as well as leveraging 1st party data in those pipes – such as what Carbon does with partners such as SmartRTB – for more addressable PMPs and direct ads.

It’s an obvious criticism that these fines do little to encourage the largest companies to change their operations, but if we don’t repeatedly point this out then we just normalise the situation

Pete Danks, Ceo @ Carbon

Further research from Advertiser Perceptions – with Captify – recently revealed a lack of confidence in contextual targeting with performance a top concern.  It’s positive to see “two out of three marketers are turning to agencies and partners for assistance with the disappearance of cookies”, and Carbon is very open to help! In terms of contextual our use of NLP and AI for automated categorisation is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to helping publishers explore audience solutions.

Other interesting reads

  • Xandr released “Shaping the future of identity” – a comprehensive industry guide exploring the various approaches for the post-cookie digital ecosystem from 1st party and industry IDs to contextual targeting.
  • Digiday covered Activision’s use of data clean rooms which they’re primarily using for aggregated insights by combining their 1st party data with 1st party data from media owners, but this could lead to other use cases.
  • AIthority.com article how zero-party will save the internet briefly explores the use of questionnaires/polls to capture valuable insights and build trust.  Whilst it may not save the internet, it holds value in being freely given data that, provided its consented, will make sense to those being targeted with the results.
  • AdExchanger article gives an overview of the importance of both probabilistic and deterministic data.  Whilst deterministic data such as first party audiences is hugely important for monetisation and retention of loyal audiences, probabilistic has a key role to play in audience development.

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