OnePortal now offers an easy path through the maze of Google’s first-party cookie initiatives before industry change strands advertisers
When search and advertising giant Google announced its “Privacy Sandbox” initiative in August 2019, it started a countdown clock aimed at improving user privacy without sacrificing advertising reach or efficacy. In January 2020, Google’s Chrome browser joined Safari and Firefox in moving to block third-party tracking cookies, with a plan that would totally phase out support “within two years.” Google has not been more specific since then, but with competing browsers already blocking third-party cookies, extensions seem unlikely. For a variety of factors, though, most small/medium-sized business advertisers continue to rely on third-party cookies, even though that approach is highly flawed and imminently doomed. Palo Alto, CA-based OnePortal is now providing access to its first-party cookie-based ad system, and the integrated stack of Google services underlying it, for free — before Google completes its cookie crackdown and businesses find themselves stranded.
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The Crumbling Cookie Model
According to W3Techs tracking, 83.9% of all websites with known analysis tools use Google Analytics. While Google Analytics is treated like a first-party cookie, many vendors that it provides reporting for rely on third-party cookies, which are bits of tracking code that third parties place on top of first-party cookies. This began to pose serious problems for marketers with Apple’s March 2020 update to Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). Under ITP, a cookie could only function for 24 hours. Google followed suit. Thus, if someone clicked an engagement ring ad on Monday, then went to the vendor’s site and purchased on Wednesday, Google Analytics and the advertiser would count that as a direct sale. The ad would appear not to have converted, which would then skew all subsequent analysis, potentially including how future ad budgets get allocated.
In contrast, first-party cookies remain widely accepted. When a consumer logs into a Google service, such as Gmail, Maps, or YouTube, Google’s first-party cookie is able to track that user’s activity, even if the user is in Incognito Mode or changes devices (provided that device is also logged into a Google service under the same account). Google does have an ad platform built for its first-party cookies: Campaign Manager 360 (CM360, for hosting and serving of ads) and Display & Video 360 (DV360, for setup and targeting of ads). Both services can work in tandem, but there are two main caveats. The services are quite costly to access for SMB-level budgets, and the platform can be so difficult to learn that many businesses take a full year to master its use, sometimes with epically expensive results. “The Night of the Yellow Ad” showcased an inexperienced DV360 user burning through over $1.6 million in 45 minutes to show millions of viewers a blank yellow square.
A Better Recipe for Success
The leadership behind OnePortal saw the privacy and ad tracking dilemma emerging and recognized an opportunity to offer a market-leading solution. OnePortal was built around first-party cookies and Google’s DV360 platform. Through its aggregated services, OnePortal provides access to its application and network of publisher inventory. OnePortal manages client operations and will soon provide customers with a self-service offering.
“The real roadblock for people adopting Google CM360 and DV360 is how long it takes to learn the platforms,” says Dave Lienemann, OnePortal co-founder and VP of Client Strategy. “It took us, a team of engineers working on Campaign Manager, about a year. Then it took another year to really figure out DV360. People out there still relying on third-party cookies have no idea what they’re facing or how long it’ll take to adapt.”
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Even if, somehow, an advertiser could become fluent in CM360 and DV360 in six months, it takes time to launch a campaign, gather data, and tweak the campaign in dozens of ways for optimized returns. According to OnePortal CEO Paxton Song, this process takes even seasoned online marketing veterans another three to six months. If Google kills off third-party cookie support in the third quarter, a would-be advertiser will not have enough time to transition. That company will miss being able to market effectively on the Open Web in the 2021 holiday season.
OnePortal also points out that knowledgeable campaign management also extends to reporting and accounting. A majority of the marketing industry still relies on probabilistic reporting, which can lead to inaccurate attribution. OnePortal utilizes deterministic reporting based on first-party cookies and Google’s floodlight tags. This helps unify tracking across multiple channels into a single interface, de-duplicate conversions, alleviate risk of overspending and ensure accuracy in accounting.
“The bottom line is that third-party cookies are dying,” says Paxton Song. “We don’t want SMBs to suffer from this. We see marketers misappropriating up to 70% of their marketing budget due to sales misattribution and poor campaign management. We’ve developed a way for businesses to easily and profitably transition into a world without third-party cookies.”
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