Advertisers are preparing for a post cookie internet. As an alternative, the rise of the data clean room is sweeping the advertising world as brands and major digital media companies look for ways to keep targeting consumers after the death of cookies. In recent months companies like Disney, NBCUniversal and Walgreens have touted clean rooms as new features within their growing online ad businesses.

Clean rooms are a way for a brand, equipped with troves of data on consumers, to sift through, organise and analyse that data without leaking or revealing personally identifiable information. The data clean room started entering the advertising lexicon in 2017, when Google opened its Ads Data Hub. Most other “walled gardens,” including Facebook and Amazon, also have data hubs. 

Most recently, Google has slowly been opening up to more clean room providers, including InfoSum, Habu and LiveRamp, which have services for publishers and advertisers that transact in online ads through Google’s Display and Video 360 demand side platform. And last week, Google made a core data product—called PAIR—widely available through those partners.

PAIR stands for “Publisher Advertiser Identity Reconciliation” and it’s a new way for marketers and publishers to match audiences for targeted ads while securing customer data in the clean room tech from Habu, InfoSum and LiveRamp. Google has its own clean room known as Google Ads Data Hub, which marketers and publishers also use to reconcile data sets for targeting and measuring ads online.  

With the deprecation of cookies in web browsers, which Apple already retired and soon Google will follow, major marketers are looking for new ways to collect their own data and use it for advertising. Brands are building first-party data sets, rather than relying on third-party cookies, to conduct targeted ad campaigns. The clean rooms are places where publishers—the sellers of ad space—and the brands can sync up audience data. Google’s PAIR was developed as one type of identity solution that could be used by advertisers using Display and Video 360.

PAIR is for publishers and advertisers “to provide personalised experiences to the customers they each have a trusted first-party relationship with,” according to Dan Taylor, VP of Global Ads at Google.

It must be noted that the work Google is doing with products such as PAIR is separate from the work that Google’s Chrome team is doing to prepare to sunset third-party cookies in the browser in 2024. That work is being done through a separate track called Privacy Sandbox.

As for its competitors, Microsoft and Amazon have both made strides to incorporate marketing clouds into their ad tech ecosystems, and they work with many of the same clean room partners. The entire industry is still developing protocols and standards through working with trade groups such as IAB, so that brands and publishers can come up with secure ways to put consumer data to use.

When it comes to the cons, there are concerns that reliance on strictly first-party data could limit the availability of ad impressions on the open web. Right now, Google’s PAIR works within each clean room provider’s domain, preventing, say, a publisher on Habu from syncing customers with an advertiser that uses InfoSum. The hope is that data clean rooms can achieve more cross-connections.

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