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Who holds the keys to the open web’s cookieless future?

Lotame’s Alexandra Theriault makes the case for the value of agencies in advertising’s cookieless future and argues that those with a “forward-thinking mindset” will develop relationships with supply-side platforms.

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Alex Theriault asks: Who holds the keys to the open web’s cookieless future?

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The race to capture the most first-party data as we head towards a cookieless future is well underway. One might assume the power players driving the future are at either end of the buy-side and sell-side spectrum.

On one side, we have publishers with a direct relationship with consumers through content and the ability to make available privacy-compliant, premium inventory.

On the other side are brands focused on offering loyalists and prospective buyers a value exchange for their personal information.

It would be naive to discredit publishers’ or brands’ significant positions as we march towards 2023. However, I would like to call out the important role agencies are playing between the two.

Agencies are thought leaders. They’re problem solvers. They’re already applying their experience to developing new solutions for the increasingly fragmented advertising ecosystem. But it’s not exactly a straight shot down the runway for agencies.

Navigating the agency challenge 

It’s an age-old problem made anew and more urgent. Agencies are charged with developing a means to reach the right audience, in the right environment by maintaining and improving addressable marketing in a trusted, scalable and repeatable manner.

Easy, right?

Agencies have long worked with demand-side platforms to build multidimensional audiences and pair them with inventory sources as efficiently as possible. However, we are seeing hesitancy from DSPs — and outright refusal from the likes of Google DV360 — to adopt established alternatives to third-party cookies.

Without third-party cookies or proven alternatives, engaging the right audience with the desired reach across domains and devices is no longer an option. This leaves agencies with the responsibility to vet and coordinate across multiple parties and develop bespoke plans that are not easily replicated.

Brands are putting pressure on agencies to test and learn what combination of post-cookie-era solutions work best for their unique needs. For targeting, solutions range from authenticated identity (known) and probabilistic identity (unknown) audience targeting. These are in addition to cohorts and contextual solutions. Without the integrations in place via DSPs, agencies have begun to seek alternative means to deliver upon their brand’s advertising strategies and goals.

Gaining speed with an emerging solution

Hello, supply-side platforms! Rapid adopters of new targeting and measurement solutions, SSPs offer a transparent, privacy-safe and repeatable testing ground that allows agencies — on behalf of brands — to create private marketplace deals.

SSPs, at their core, are technologies built with the sole purpose of increasing yield for publishers via programmatic marketplaces. As such, it’s in their best interest to adopt and offer sufficient means to preserve various buying and selling options that maximize the value of a publisher’s inventory.

While agencies have historically brought their brand’s budgets directly to DSPs, I’ve begun to observe a new world order at work. Agencies are developing new relationships with SSPs and are focused on those most prepared for the cookieless future.

SSPs unlock the ability to create private deals with premium publishers and send these deals upstream for activation in any DSP, regardless of their participation with identity solutions or not (and yes — this even includes DV360!).

This forward-thinking mindset, backed by brand wallets, enables agencies to centralize and standardize their buying methods across transparent and trusted publishers as a means to a scalable and addressable future.

Publishers, technology partners, agencies and brands all bring their unique value and leverage to the table.

While collaboration is essential in our business, I’ll be keeping my eye on agencies as the innovators and executors that have already begun to set the course for targeting, measurement and inventory sources to thrive or fade away, come 18 months from now.


Alexandra Theriault is the chief customer officer at Lotame, leading the organization’s customer focus, programs and strategy across six continents. Alex brings 15 years of experience designing, developing and delivering world-class customer success for global brands, agencies, platforms and publishers across the martech industry. She serves as an advisory board member on Lotame’s Diversity & Inclusion council, and served as an advisory board member for a martech startup in the affiliate space. 


Credit: StockSnap / Pixabay