The withering of the third-party cookies and mobile identifiers that have made up much of traditional digital ad targeting is up-ending the business of marketers reaching audiences.

As those methods wane, many ad planners are contemplating the switch from targeting users to targeting the content they read or watch – commonly called “contextual” targeting.

But, whilst “context” may seem to simply describe the media material itself, in this video interview with Beet.TV, Magnite CTO Tom Kershaw says there is plenty that context can infer about the user himself or herself.

The context of context

“When we think about publisher first-party data, a lot of times people think about (topical) context, like you’re reading an article about sports,” Kersahw says.

“But the history of that context is more important than the context itself. The fact that you read three articles about sports, two articles about aeroplanes and six articles about a movie over a period of time, all at three o’clock in the morning, while on an iPhone that’s six years old… that information together gives us a lot of data around intentions and about what you like and don’t like.

“(When) then you add algorithmic optimizations and AI to that, you can do very, very precise audience segmentation without the need of a tracker or a cookie or any such thing.”

Build back better

That is one way in which marketers may be able to piece back together a path to audiences, after the deprecation of third-party cookies and the switching of mobile app identifiers to consumer opt-in.

Taken together and coming off the back of consumer privacy policy changes, it represents the biggest threat to the accepted norms of digital ad targeting in years.

But the demise of these identifiers is prompting new interest in “first-party” data, that which marketers and publishers obtain from consumers with permission.

Publishers in pole position

Kershaw thinks these trends put publishers in a good position.

“With the end of the third-party cookie and the change of the identity regime, the knowledge of what users are interested in, what they care about is shifting to publishers and the primary data that will fuel these audience segments is going to be publisher data as opposed to buyer data,” he says.

“That’s a huge change in our industry.

“In order for us to continue to have the level of personalization and the level of performance that marketers are looking for, finding ways to harness that data, federate it across multiple publishers and develop algorithms that classify those users into interest is not only important, it’s existential because it is the future of advertising as we know it.”

You are watching “Media In Transition: How AI is Powering Change,” a Beet.TV leadership video series presented by IBM Watson Advertising. For more videos, please visit this page