Unruly / Blog / Programmatic Video #WotW: What Is Cookie-less Targeting?

Programmatic Video #WotW: What Is Cookie-less Targeting?

Programmatic video is the fastest-growing category of programmatic buying, but a lot of marketers are still struggling to get to grips with the basics.

A recent study by the Association of National Advertisers and Forrester found that only 23% of marketers said they understood programmatic and were using it to execute their campaigns.

This is despite the fact that more than half of US publishers reported selling their premium video ad inventory programmatically in August 2014 (Adap.tv), while mega-brands like American Express and P&G vowed to shift the majority of their ad spend to programmatic by the end of 2014.

There’s clearly a knowledge gap between the programmatic front lines and everyday marketers, making 2015 a key year for programmatic education. As with any burgeoning new trend, one of the main causes of confusion is vocabulary.

Any discussion of the topic produces a web of jargon and acronyms that’s enough to send anyone running to Google. But fear not, this is easily solved.

Each week we’ll be serving up handy guides to the most important programmatic video terms, courtesy of Unruly co-founder and CTO, Matthew Cooke. Last week we looked at what Cross-Device Targeting is. This week, Matthew explains what cookie-less targeting means.

Stick around and see how quickly you can master the art of programmatic.


What is cookie-less targeting?
A cookie is a small piece of data downloaded and either held temporarily or stored on your computer/device by your web browser when you visit a website. Cookies are one way a website or online advertising company can give each user a unique identifier so they can be recognised and targeted if they are seen again.

Advertising companies use what is known as a “third party” cookie. This is because the cookie is not set by the website owner but by another technology company or advertiser. The unique IDs put in these cookies are stored in Data Management Platforms and are used to create Audience Segments, they are then used to perform online behavioural advertising and for frequency capping (deciding how many times a user should see an ad).

Cookie-less targeting refers to a number of non-cookie based methods that can be used for targeting in cases where cookies may not work.

There are two main techniques for cookie-less targeting:

  • Login based: If a website requires you to log in, then the site providing the login system can potentially support the targeting of ads using the login identifier or an identifier stored with the login information. This can support wider than single app/site targeting if the login system is used across many sites or apps, such as Facebook, Apple or Google. This may in some cases use a cookie, but it uses only the cookie provided by the login system, not a “third party cookie” provided by an advertising company. A drawback of login-based methods is that the most useful systems are provided by a small handful of technology companies that control how and when the identifiers may be used by third parties and they operate largely in their own interests;
  • Fingerprint based: While it is not possible to store an identifier, it may be possible to identify a device by checking a number of different bits of information, which together may make a relatively unique fingerprint with which the device can be recognised and targeted. There are two issues with fingerprint-based methods: accuracy; and also there are also some privacy concerns around fingerprinting-based methods since cookie-based privacy settings can be changed by a user, whereas fingerprints can potentially be used for targeting/tracking regardless of privacy settings.