Publishers First in the Privacy Sandbox

When Google finally kicked off 1% of cookie deprecation at the start of 2024, this opened the door for real-time auction testing of Google’s Privacy Sandbox.

Thus far, the industry as a whole has been rather quiet about their findings. For those who have shared, the results have been quite uninspiring.

Mediavine responded to Google’s call for testing partners and has shared meaningful data from our findings to aid in the functionality and scaling of this solution.

In this post, you’ll learn what we discovered during our testing as well as what it means for publishers.

Our Findings

In Mediavine’s recent Sandbox testing, we discovered that Privacy Sandbox’s Protected Audiences API (PA API) causes increased latency, which, in simple terms, is the length of time between when a request for bids is sent and when the ad content displays on a publisher’s site. An increase in latency leads to lower viewability rates and less revenue for publishers.

When we dug deeper into our testing results, we discovered an average viewability rate of 39% when PA API wins the auction. That’s far below the industry minimum standard of 70%, along with the average viewability of Mediavine sites, which is even higher.

In other words, auctions take longer and fewer ads are viewed, which means poor ad performance for buyers and potentially less money for publishers.

In the advertising world, speed is everything. If ads don’t load fast enough, they won’t be viewed by website visitors and publishers won’t get paid.

In its current state, the Google Privacy Sandbox solution won’t scale for publishers because it won’t produce the results advertisers need.

When our ad tech team flagged these concerning findings, we shared them immediately in our regular meetings with the Privacy Sandbox and Google Ad Manager teams, with whom we’re working closely. Simultaneously, I wrote an article for AdExchanger and the ad tech industry took notice. The editors of AdExchanger then invited me to discuss the topic on The Big Story podcast.

A Publisher-First Approach

Our overarching observation and feedback to Google about the Privacy Sandbox is that publishers need more controls and capabilities.

One of our responsibilities as the technical advocates for our publisher partners is to exhaust every opportunity presented by Google via their Privacy Sandbox to lessen the blow when third-party cookies no longer exist.

We’ve already shared our findings with the Privacy Sandbox team in hopes of making this a viable solution for publishers and advertisers. And we will continue to test and provide feedback in the coming days, weeks and months.

Through our regular meetings with Google, consistent communication with the Google Ad Manager team and our engagement with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in Europe, we continue to advocate for all publishers within the ad tech community.

Before joining Mediavine a year ago, I spent 8 years on the buy side of the industry — experience that informs my work here at Mediavine. I know the needs of advertisers and partners, and now with my experience at Mediavine, I’m uniquely positioned to blend their needs with those of publishers.

As our testing of the Privacy Sandbox moves forward, we will continue to share more industry-focused insights to help you know how to prepare for the departure of third-party cookies.

Transparency In Testing

As SVP of monetization and business strategy at Mediavine, I oversee the teams responsible for ad technology and operations, sales and data. Our focus is on anything and everything that puts money in the pockets of our publishers and provides results to advertisers.

Our goals in encouraging open dialogue about our Privacy Sandbox testing are to:

  1. Help improve the Sandbox product so it can scale and be a key piece of the identity solution that publishers need to thrive in a cookieless world.
  2. Engage the buy side of the industry to leverage their power and budgets to test and determine the viability of Google’s solution.
  3. Ensure the CMA fully understands the solutions Google is bringing to the table and how it may serve themselves.

Key Takeaways

  • In the current state, PA API is functional but not scalable, and there are many proposed solutions to this challenge both by us and others in the industry.
  • Mediavine will continue to partner with buyers, partners and Google to better the state of the current solutions proposed within Privacy Sandbox.
  • Publishers warrant more controls over the auctions, and Mediavine is advocating and negotiating for those controls on your behalf.
  • The identity challenge is big and impacts the full industry. Mediavine is confident our comprehensive solution will provide our publisher partners what they need to be successful in a cookieless world.

Moving forward, we will continue to share additional learnings with you from our Privacy Sandbox testing, as well as industry insights we are seeing from our partners and buyers.

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