Cookie-based vs Cookie-free data

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Google is poised to eliminate third-party cookies in Chrome in 2025, marking the official end of the drawn-out conversation surrounding the depreciation of third-party cookies. Regardless if it’s pushed back (again), its deprecation is inevitable.

To prepare, we ran two different tests across 15 campaigns to uncover how cookie-free data performs compared to third-party cookie-based data. The campaign flight dates varied, ranging from three weeks to multi-month campaigns, and included multiple verticals such as travel, healthcare, CPG, financial services, government, and varied audiences. We leveraged online video (OLV) and banner ads.

Data & partnership details

We leveraged third-party behavioral cookie-based data through our DSP partners to conduct our test.

  • Comscore: We partner with Comscore to plan, evaluate, and transact media across platforms. Through Comscore’s Demo and Predictive Audiences solutions, we can tap into more than 1,500 future-proof predictive audiences built using cookie-free contextual and opt-in audience behavioral data.
  • Oracle Advertising: Oracle’s data quality, innovation, tracking, and cookieless solutions have long made Oracle a preferred partner. With its Data-Driven Context solution, we use consumer content consumption habits to model contextual segments to activate in any campaign.
  • Audigent: Our partnership with Audigent enables us to access privacy-safe, opt-in, cookie-free data from data partners and top publishers, including Conde Nast, Equifax, and Experian. 

TEST 1: Holistic campaign performance

To understand campaign performance holistically and uncover limitations and key takeaways. we analyzed three different campaign goals.

  • Cost Per Action (CPA)
  • Clickthrough Rate (CTR)
  • Video Completion Rate (VCR)

Cost-per-click: Testing Outcomes

Regarding CPAs, we discovered that audiences with behavioral cookie-based targeting drove higher conversion numbers. Oracle had the lowest average eCPM. And, with regard to scale, we learned that behavioral cookie-based targeting had the highest scale, but all partners had strong scale capabilities. While behavioral cookie-based targeting had the most robust performance, we predict that cookieless data performance will improve as advertisers increasingly leverage it.

Clickthrough rate: Testing outcomes

Comscore and Oracle tied for best average performance with a 0.19% CTR. However, as it pertains to eCPMs, Oracle had the lowest average eCPM, followed by Comscore. Like our CPA test, behavioral cookie-based targeting had the greatest scale, followed by Comscore cookieless data. Overall, cookie-free data outperformed cookie-based data.

Video completion rate: Testing outcomes

When testing for video completion rates, we found that Comscore slightly outperformed the others with an average performance of 83.8% VCR compared to behavioral cookie data at 82%. Furthermore, behavioral cookie-based data had the lowest eCPM.  Overall, cookie-based data and cookie-free data yielded similar performance.

TEST 2: Clickthrough rates and PMPs

Our second test aimed to analyze one KPI: clickthrough rate (CTR). Audigent’s first-party data is both privacy-safe and relevant for brands as it comes directly from trusted publishers. Digilant conducted the tests using Audigent’s data in a private marketplace (PMP) using both a supply-side partner (SSP) and a demand-side platform (DSP).

Clickthrough rates: Testing outcomes

Overall, behavioral cookie-based data was at parity with Audigent’s cookieless data and tied for the best average CTR at 0.18%. Regarding eCPM, however, Audigent had lower average eCPMs than behavioral cookie-based data. We also learned that behavioral cookie-based data had better scale, as Audigent’s tactics were limited.

While issues with Audigent’s scale presented themselves, it had comparable performance to the cookie-based data. The lower eCPM is an excellent indication that Auidgent is a valuable partner to use for more future cookieless tests and campaigns.

Key Takeaways from Overall Findings

Brands should NOT be nervous

There are many cookieless solutions available to advertisers. Solutions will continue to evolve and arise as we move closer to a world without third-party cookies.  Our test proved that cookieless solutions performed similarly to—and in some instances better than—cookie-based solutions.

Perform your own tests

Consider running A/B tests that directly compare third-party cookie-based data against cookieless data. The sooner you start to test, the sooner you can uncover what works best for your brand as we close in on a cookieless world

Remain confident in your goals

While CPMs are slightly higher for cookieless solutions, performance is strong. Advertisers should remain confident they will continue to achieve their goals into the cookieless future.

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