Nielsen Unveils Cookieless Measurement Strategy

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NEW YORK—Nielsen has announced a new approach to measuring audiences and tracking the effectiveness of digital ads that won’t require cookies.

The new approach, which will be part of its cross-media currency efforts Nielsen One, comes at a time when a variety of technological trends and privacy concerns have made it harder for researchers and advertisers to use cookies to track consumer behavior.

Nielsen said its new approach would get around this problem by eliminating its reliance on digital identifiers, thus ensuring that advertisers and publishers can “continue to measure confidently in a dynamic, privacy-first media environment.”

“If the industry has learned anything since the rise of cookies, it’s that digital media measurement must remain scalable, flexible and useful,” said Mainak Mazumdar, chief data officer at Nielsen. “Nielsen’s new cookieless measurement approach will further position the company to deliver deduplication across linear and digital as part of Nielsen One. Our new approach to measuring authenticated and unauthenticated digital traffic will enable us to scale across channels and platforms to ensure a comprehensive view of success and uncover areas for optimization.” 

In laying out its plans for measuring audiences in a cookless world, Nielsen noted that digital traffic will ultimately move into two distinct categories for measurement--authenticated and unauthenticated--as the deprecation of digital identifiers continues. 

To measure authenticated traffic, Nielsen said it will leverage all available identifiers and first-party data from participating clients, such as hashed email addresses, Unified ID 2.0 and select, verified self-reported demographic labels. This will ensure interoperability in the ad ecosystem, including with walled gardens, and simplify measurement for clients by reducing reliance on third parties.  

To measure unauthenticated traffic, logged out traffic or traffic on properties that do not have logged in environments or where no alternative identifiers can be provided, Nielsen said it has has developed a machine learning technique with additional contextual data signals including time, browser, content and device information. 

Nielsen also explained that the model will be validated against the panel for accuracy. Demographics  of unauthenticated behavior are also modeled and validated with panel observations for both representation and accuracy. 

Late last year, Nielsen announced its ID Resolution System which will further position the company to deliver deduplication across linear and digital platforms as part of Nielsen ONE, the single, cross-media currency that will span Nielsen’s global outcomes and cross-media measurement solutions, the company said. 

The company did not release specific timelines for the deployment of the new approach but it did note that “Nielsen aims to achieve full resiliency against the deterioration of digital identifiers by 2023 when the industry transitions to a cookieless environment.”

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.