Could A Consumer Taxonomy Fill The Identity Void In A Cookie-less World?


This article was originally published on AdExchanger.

The death of the cookie has been predicted since at least 2013, but the third-party cookie has lingered so long because the advertising industry still depends on it – more than most will admit.

Everyone praises the first-party cookie, but advertising buying platforms continue to use third-party cookies to sync with first-party data. The third-party cookie is key to retargeting, cross-site frequency capping and customer data collection and profile creation, for starters.

Without third-party cookies to connect data and audience-based buying, targeting becomes challenging and will strictly move to contextual-based buying without a historical consumer view. On mobile devices, outside of the cookie, the IDFA and Mobile Ad ID are used for targeting but require explicit opt-in consent for GDPR compliance.

The once-touted Advertising ID faced a major blow last fall when AppNexus pulled out of the consortium. With too many large players defending their territory and respective identity profiles, the hope for a universal cookie-based solution waned.

Instead of approaching the problem from a universal cookie angle, an independent trade group like the IAB should step in and create a standardized consumer taxonomy that will allow for identity- and interest-based targeting while still maintaining user privacy.

The IAB already has a content taxonomy to identify content types on a given page; a consumer taxonomy would function similarly. Just like the content taxonomy is used across protocols such as OpenRTB to help target context-based advertising, the appropriate consumer taxonomy categories would be registered and passed on before a page loads and could be read by advertising platforms in order to target consumer profiles in specific segments without using the cookie for profile-based targeting.

To follow the consumer across sites to build accurate profiles around this taxonomy, an identity provider would still need to integrate directly with publishers at the DNS level. This provider would have a DNS entry like “,” which would send the first-party cookie back to the provider’s taxonomy pool. The identity provider would take that first-party data at the beginning of the transaction and be able to respond with the matching taxonomy responses.

So if I visited, my session data would be sent to the identification provider, and it would match with IAB-defined categories like “Cycling Enthusiast,” which would be passed along to advertising platforms, along with a confidence score.

That taxonomy data could then be passed on to exchanges and advertising platforms without the need to cookie-tie, and it could provide interest-based advertising at the consumer level, not just the content level.

Paywalled publishers would have a leg-up in this new model, as they would be able to more accurately identify logged-in users, similar to how Facebook and Google have had an advantage with their sign-in requirements across their platforms.

The consumer specification or taxonomy would also include a notion of a rolling identifier – a universal unique identifier (UUID) like 57990d49-07d9-4b85-bc29-2616035cc57d, for example – which would rotate every 48 hours and allow for consumers to be temporarily tracked for frequency capping and retargeting. Identity providers implementing the specification would need to maintain something of a Rosetta Stone for passing the same UUID across sites.

This open-source, cookie-less specification would allow any company to accurately identify and reach their target audiences and share the most pertinent information across platforms. While this system is admittedly a looser coupling of a person’s profile than it would be in a cookie-based world, it provides more privacy for the consumer while still allowing platforms to provide personalized advertising.

As an open-source solution, a consumer taxonomy gives every company in the industry access to its benefits and provides a new common language for transacting media, paving the way for the next generation of consumer-based marketing.

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