Legitimate Cookieless Ad Serving – Interested?

Protect personal privacy! Fight technology that jeopardizes your anonymity! Cookies have no value, delete them! Anti-cookie advocates insist that privacy-bound entities should only market on the internet in the absence of cookies. These charges affect non-profits, governmental agencies and any other entity bound by the Privacy Protection Act.

Okay, what is this all about?  A year ago I was charged with coming up with an ad serving solution that was entirely absent of cookies.  I worked with my company to come up with a solution which required that we re-engineer tha ad serving technology to accomplish the task.  This post will share our learnings.

Most online marketers aggregate and manage online banner campaigns through a third party ad server, saving time, controlling costs and manage resources. The dominant third party ad servers are DoubleClick, Atlas and even Mediaplex. These service providers, and even the second tier providers all use cookies to count impressions and click-thru’s, track closed-loop tracking, measure the view-through, serve unique banners and story-board a banner sequence. None of these providers have ever demonstrated the ability to serve banner advertisements without cookies.

In order to advertise online without cookies, one must work directly with web site publishers and without using a third party ad server. An advertiser must advertise “site-served.” This means that banners are sent directly to publisher web sites and performance reports are aggregated manually from each web site by the marketer. Advertising on the internet without cookies, without using a third party ad server, is a virtual nightmare.

The benefits of third party ad serving including centralized campaign management and reporting and impression and click-thru tracking should be possible without cookies. After all, companies bound by the Privacy Protection Act represent a large group. Site-served is so 1998! So how would a third party ad server assist an advertiser without using cookies? A cookie-less solution requires two components: no cookie writing and no cookie reading. Anything else is not really cookie-less. Almost anyone can ‘turn-off’ cookie writing, although many of the dominant third party ad server may not want to! Cookie reading, however, is the bigger problem. You see, a browser automatically looks for cookies. If a cookie exists, it will be read. You can’t turn cookie reading off. The only way to prevent cookie reading is to serve the advertisements from a domain that has never written cookies in the past. Dominant third party ad servers serve ads from their proprietary domains. Their cookies have been propagated out onto the internet for as long as they have been in business. As a result, it is impossible for a third party ad server to avoid reading a cookie that they have previously written should they encounter it.

The patent-pending cookie-less ad serving solution that we came up with includes both the prevention of cookie-writing and cookie-reading. Furthermore, TruEffect harnassed its ad serving engine to serve banner ads from other domains – specifically ‘virgin’ domains. TruEffect’s innovative and unprecedented approach ensures a cookie-less solution. No cookies written to the virgin domains and no cookies read by the virgin domains. There is no cookie information to be recorded in log files and no cookie information to be stored in the archives. This solution guaranteed a third party ad serving solution that is completely absent of cookies.

Don’t get me wrong.  It is not that another ad server cannot do this, I am sure they can.  Its just that when given the opportunity to bid on this major government account, the other dominant players couldn’t make it work and lost the business.  Maybe they simply did not want to do it.  Regardless, TruEffect patented the whole process in the meantime.  Key learnings along the way.

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