Industry Responds to Shifting Gears on Cookie Independence

Google’s announcement on January 26, 2022, has the online ad industry sitting up straight and shifting gears once again. As news that FLoC would no longer be taking flight, stakeholders across the globe are forced to now wrap their heads around what impact the newly released “Topics” will have on their ability to reach consumers in a meaningful way. Understanding the future implications to the value chain remains critical and, as such, IAB Canada has updated our Moving Towards Cookie Independence infographic to include the newest addressability considerations and the implications of the new Google solution as well as released our latest “Guide to Seller Defined Audiences.”

In summary, “Topics” resembles its contextual cousin in that it will allow advertisers to target an initial 350 categories of users based on a combination of IAB Tech Lab Audience Taxonomy and Chrome browsing history – those interested in “fitness” or “autos” for example, instead of grouping them into thousands of cohorts with similar browsing histories. According to Google, the changes will make it much more challenging to use the new system to infer users’ identities or potentially sensitive personal characteristics, such as race or sexual orientation. They also said that the new system will only consider users’ activity on participating sites, a major change from the prior plan, which would have included most websites unless the user opted out. For a quick video outlining the approach click here.

Marketers and publishers here’s what you need to know:

  • The top 5 Topics are calculated every week for each user (via the Chrome browser)
  • Upon visiting a participating website, the Topics API will anonymously aggregate users into 3 initial Topics, based on their browsing behaviours and interests
  • One Topic is selected from each of the past three weeks and is then shared with both the site and its advertising partners for targeting purposes
  • For sites that are yet to be categorized, or opt-out, a lightweight machine learning algorithm in the browser will take over and provide an estimated topic based on the name of the domain.
  • Consumers can opt in and out of the process (via the Chrome browser)

Coming up on February 24th at our Digital for Reach – Playbook for Addressable Audiences, we will be digging even deeper into the overall implications of the changing landscape. This event will include a panel dedicated to the topic and will shed some light on what this all means and how you can be prepared. 

“Topics, as described in its initial release, holds great promise for the industry moving forward. We are pleased to see the nod towards the standard taxonomy developed by IAB Tech Lab which is already supported within the existing OpenRTB object model and we’re encouraged by the continued efforts towards delivering a privacy-centric approach to addressability presented here”, said Sonia Carreno, President, IAB Canada. “The move provides all the more reason to embrace advanced seller defined audience models by getting a firm handle on first party data and ensuring your tech stack is able to leverage these new tools to drive effective results.” 

For more information on Topics check out the following resources:

Blogpost: Get to know the new Topics API for Privacy Sandbox – Topics Page

Developer Documentation – The Topics API

Proposal – Technical Explainer

IAB Canada members are also encouraged to review the proposal and share feedback directly via public channels (e.g., issue in Github or through a W3C group such as the Improving Web Advertising Business Group or the Private Advertising Technology Community Group).