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Making sense of targeting without third-party cookies

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Making sense of targeting without third-party cookies

Thanks to Google, making sense of a world without third-party cookies continues to be a challenge. And it’s hard to plan for the end when it’s so unclear when that will be. 

Really what the latest delay does is give more time for things to get confusing for marketers — especially when it comes to how to target people without those cookies. In other words, the already-crowded market for alternative ways to do this will only get more crowded. 

To separate the wheat from the chaff, here’s a primer on how the different alternatives are shaking out. There are exceptions and nuances, of course, but in general the alternatives tend to fall into one of three categories.

One-to-one identifiers

First, there’s the replacements for a one-to-one identifier. Think The Trade Desk-backed Unified ID 2.0, or similar solutions touted by companies like LiveRamp and ID5. These alternatives are essentially trying to replicate what third-party cookies do in various privacy-compliant ways. In some cases, for instance, they do so by replacing third-party cookies with hashed and encrypted email-based IDs. 

The main issue with this category is not security (decryption or signing schemes), but consent. Take Unified ID 2.0, for example. The success of it is predicated on being able to pass an email address (in whatever form) into a targeting or profiling machine that could be deployed across publishers. Something like that needs a very sophisticated way of gathering consent — maybe even a user portal for insights and withdrawal — at least in Europe. Plus, publishers need to be ok with onboarding their readers onto the identifier. Not every publisher has the sort of clout to convince people to sign in to their sites. 

None of this is beyond the realm of possibility, if ad tech vendors are to be believed. Many of them continue to pour considerable resources into developing and marketing these alternatives. In fact, just this week, MediaMath joined the group of companies backing Unified ID 2.0 — despite the fact that it’s the alternative being spearheaded by its longtime rival The Trade Desk. For now, though, the scale of these solutions is sparse at best, or very narrow at worst. 

“We already support ID solutions from LiveRamp, ID5, Parrable, Lotame, LiveIntent and others — our aim is to deliver our clients the best solution for their market, data set and campaign goals, so adding UID2.0 to our roster makes perfect sense,” said Sylvain Le Borgne, chief partnership officer at MediaMath. “Broad scale adoption by publishers will be key to providing meaningful metrics and analysis, and some challenges, like household measurement, will need to be overcome — we look forward to seeing how The Trade Desk approaches these challenges.”

Device-managed audiences

Next, there are the device-managed audiences, or solutions like Topics and FLEDGE from Google that are built through browser APIs. Let’s look at FLEDGE, for example: The proposed tool from Google is meant to facilitate remarketing by letting someone’s browser, not the advertiser or ad tech vendor, control advertiser-defined interest groups that a browser is associated with. Topics is wired in a similar fashion: It’s designed to use the Chrome’s browsing history to automatically gather information about users’ interests so that they can be shared with other ad businesses — all avoiding to prick privacy concerns.

In short, these solutions work on the premise that all targeting and measurement will move to the browser. This way, less data is revealed, the mechanisms that do it are controlled and, subsequently, the sharing of them is more restricted. At least that’s the theory. As ever, the devil is in the details — many of which are yet to be discovered.

What is clear, however, is the latest iteration of FLEDGE — the one that’s being tested now — has Google as the central gatekeeper. There’s no surprise there. But unless this is addressed, any progress toward a final solution is likely to be limited. Indeed, there are many supply-side platforms that aren’t participating in the trials, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Therein lies the main challenge. There’s a lot of cynicism around these solutions that’s yet to be tempered. Think about it: Google seems to be saying, “If we can get you to focus on contextual targeting and broad audience segments, we can show you lots of inventory and leverage our existing systems (like quality score), just at less granular levels.”  That in turn perpetuates the fear of missing out on the inventory, and forces marketers to accept whatever data Google provides.

Seller-defined audiences

Lastly, there are seller-defined audiences. Simply put, this is where the publisher or some intermediary says, “Hey marketer, you don’t have the ability to recognize this user because you’re a third party, but I can because I’m a first party, so here’s what I know about the user.” That data then gets transmitted into the bidstream that marketers can target against. 

Right now, SDAs aren’t really available at scale. Tests are just starting up. So there’s no concrete feedback to speak of yet. However, publishers have high expectations for SDAs despite the considerable costs and work that go into setting up these deals. And why wouldn’t they? After all, SDAs give them more control than ever over how their audiences are bundled and sold. 

By now it’s probably clear that each of these categories has different forces working for and against them. Sure, they will likely all work alongside each other one day, but it’s clear that different sections of the market want as much to happen through their backed solution as possible. Look at supply-side platforms, for example. It’s pretty clear that they have a soft spot for SDAs. In many ways, they’re a means to an end for those companies. 

That end is survival. Listen to most SSP bosses talk right now and it’s clear they see themselves in a future state as becoming a data clean room of sorts — a platform where marketers and publishers can join their data anonymously to identify audiences that are attractive to the former. When the bid requests for those audiences go out, the publisher doesn’t have to disclose who the user is. It just signals to the demand-side platform that this is a high-value audience for the marketer in question. And the DSP buys it. If this happens, then SSPs don’t necessarily have to compete with as many of those ad tech vendors because they’ve effectively been reduced to workflow tools. 

The same sort of machinations are at play for the other options. The bottom line is marketers have their work cut out for them when it comes to making the right choices for their businesses. 

“Test and learn has to be the mantra for marketers right now and working with select or trusted partners to understand which solutions or approaches best suit their business requirements,” said Rhys Williams, tech and activation lead at media agency the7stars. “I think it’s very hard to pick a clear winner but we are starting to see techniques or methods that are more than likely to form part of the longer term answer to privacy first marketing — data clean rooms, identity graphs and cohort creation. Marketers should be building these into their roadmaps for Q4 2022 and in 2023.”

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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are

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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are
A player shouldering the ball



(Image credit: EA)

FIFA 23 might be the best game soccer game yet for terrible sports fans, as it lets you turn off commentary that criticizes your bad playing.

Now that the early access FIFA 23 release time has passed, EA Play and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can hop into the game ahead of its full release. But as Eurogamer (opens in new tab) spotted, they’ll find a peculiar option waiting for them.

FIFA 23 includes a toggle to turn off ‘Critical Commentary’. The setting lets you silence all negative in-match comments made about your technique, so you can protect your precious ego even when you miss an open goal or commit an obvious foul. The more positive commentary won’t be affected. 

Spare your feelings

A player dribbling the ball in FIFA 23

(Image credit: EA)

The feature looks tailored toward children and new players, who don’t want to have their confidence wrecked within mere minutes of picking up the controller. But even experienced players who just so happen to be terrible at the game might benefit.

It’s not perfect, though. According to Eurogamer, the feature didn’t seem to work during a FIFA Ultimate Team Division Rivals match, with critical comments slipping through the filter. Still, who hasn’t benefited from a light grilling every now and then?

Polite commentary isn’t the only new addition in FIFA 23. It’s the first game in the series to include women’s club football teams, and fancy overhauled animations that take advantage of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S’s new-gen hardware. EA will be hoping to end on a high, as FIFA 23 will be the last of its soccer games to release with the official FIFA licence.

If disabling critical commentary doesn’t improve your soccer skills, maybe building a squad of Marvel superheroes will. Although you might not do much better with Ted Lasso wandering the pitch.

FIFA 23 is set to fully release this Friday, September 30.

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and Gamesindustry.biz, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games. 

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch
The backs of the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro



(Image credit: Google)

We’re starting to hear more and more Google Pixel 7 leaks, with the launch of the phone just a week away, but tech fans might be getting a lot of déjà vu, with the leaks all listing near-identical specs to what we heard about the Pixel 6 a year ago.

It sounds like the new phones – a successor to the Pixel 6 Pro is also expected – could be very similar to their 2021 predecessors. And a new price leak has suggested that the phones’ costs could be the same too, as a Twitter user spotted the Pixel 7 briefly listed on Amazon (before being promptly taken down, of course).

Google pixel 7 on Amazon US. $599.99.It is still showing up in search cache but the listing gives an error if you click on it. We have the B0 number to keep track of though!#teampixel pic.twitter.com/w5Z09D28YESeptember 27, 2022

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According to these listings, the Pixel 7 will cost $599 while the Pixel 7 Pro will cost $899, both of which are identical to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro starting prices. The leak doesn’t include any other region prices, but in the UK the current models cost £599 and £849, while in Australia they went for AU$999 and AU$1,299.

So it sounds like Google is planning on retaining the same prices for its new phones as it sold the old ones for, a move which doesn’t make much sense.


Analysis: same price, new world

Google’s choice to keep the same price points is a little curious when you consider that the specs leaks suggest these phones are virtually unchanged from their predecessors. You’re buying year-old tech for the same price as before.

Do bear in mind that the price of tech generally lowers over time, so you can readily pick up a cheaper Pixel 6 or 6 Pro right now, and after the launch of the new ones, the older models will very likely get even cheaper.

But there’s another key factor to consider in the price: $599 might be the same number in 2022 as it was in 2021, but with the changing global climate, like wars and flailing currencies and cost of living crises, it’s a very different amount of money.

Some people just won’t be willing to shell out the amount this year, that they may have been able to last year. But this speaks to a wider issue in consumer tech.

Google isn’t the only tech company to completely neglect the challenging global climate when pricing its gadgets: Samsung is still releasing super-pricey folding phones, and the iPhone 14 is, for some incomprehensible reason, even pricier than the iPhone 13 in some regions. 

Too few brands are actually catering to the tough economic times many are facing right now, with companies increasing the price of their premium offerings to counter rising costs, instead of just designing more affordable alternatives to flagships.

These high and rising prices suggest that companies are totally out of touch with their buyers, and don’t understand the economic hardship troubling many.

We’ll have to reach a breaking point sooner or later, either with brands finally clueing into the fact that they need to release cheaper phones, or with customers voting with their wallets by sticking to second-hand or refurbished devices. But until then, you can buy the best cheap phones to show that cost is important to you.

Tom’s role in the TechRadar team is to specialize in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working in TechRadar freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. Outside of TechRadar he works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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