Following news that Google is likely working to replace the much-maligned cookie for tracking and ad targeting on the Web, Ad Age is reporting Microsoft is working on its own cookie-replacement technology.
Microsoft is apparently developing technology that would run on its own devices and platforms including Windows desktops, tablets and smartphones, Xbox, Bing and Internet Explorer. Microsoft’s ownership of these various products enables it to replace the cookie with what Ad Age says is essentially a device identifier that users would opt-into when accepting the usual terms of service agreement. That would give Microsoft the ability to offer advertisers the cross-device and cross-platform tracking their so desperate for.
“Not only would [Microsoft] be building out an ad ID, but they would also be building out a cross-channel attribution model, which everybody wants,” The Media Kitchen president Barry Lowenthal told Ad Age.
The need to find an alternative to the browser based third-party cookie is increasing since it cannot track the growing percentage of web traffic that comes from mobile devices — or connected TVs and gaming consoles such as Xbox — not to mention that several browsers’ default settings block third-party cookies.
Micorosoft and Google both have said their efforts in this area are in early stages. Still, the move toward proprietary technology by a handful of behemoths — Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft among them — gives pause to many in the industry. Not only would these companies have insight into the data generated from their tracking technologies, there is the potential these companies could hoard advertiser data.
Whether advertisers would be willing to adopt a closed tracking technology limited to Microsoft or Google products is unclear. Michael Schoen, EVP-programmatic product management at IPG Mediabrands tells Ad Age that Google and Microsoft would have a hard time controlling that data because advertisers would expect the identifiers to work with the ad buying and measurement systems advertisers and agencies already have in place.
Google’s dominance in display advertising gives it considerable more leverage, yet there are Microsoft products such as Xbox for which advertisers could be willing to trade control to get tracking capabilities on a connected TV device.