It’s been a tough week for those developing third-party cookie replacements. In a blog post, Google announced it will be leaving identifiers behind once it removes cookies from Chrome in 2022 – and that it would rather everyone else did too.

In the post Google’s David Temkin points to the erosion of consumer trust and concludes that “if digital advertising doesn’t evolve to address the growing concerns people have about their privacy and how their personal identity is being used, we risk the future of the free and open web.”

This was a wake-up call and advertisers now urgently need to find new ways to evaluate audience relevance for advertising campaigns – ways that are user-blind and can be scaled. This, of course, is both a challenge and an opportunity – but for many smart advertisers, the solutions already exist.

Advanced contextual targeting is developing rapidly in both precision and scale; it is privacy-friendly and considerate to users while delivering outstanding results for advertisers and publishers.

Illuma is a pioneer in this field and takes the process one step further – our technology learns from a group’s behaviour in-campaign and then decides where to funnel campaigns contextually based on these signals. And it does this on the fly. Using AI, we’re able to consider hundreds of different topics simultaneously based on what’s working best for a campaign’s audience.

Crucially, this approach means we can also expand significantly without losing audience relevance. This allows us to bring the much-needed scale to campaigns that is every advertiser’s holy grail. The fledgling identity solutions were always going to struggle with this.

In this way, our technology follows similar principles to Google’s FLoC. It learns from groups. It acts laterally to find cohorts of similarly interested users in similar online moments. But it does this using contextual information rather than building on group identities.

Of course, advertising has long been headed down the anti-tracking route. And we’ve known for much longer that it’s possible to learn from audiences without using personal data.

Many global brands are already working this way (AMEX, Aviva, Pernod Ricard and TUI, to name just a few) and this gentle yet powerful contextual style is available to traders through all leading platforms.

Analysing the behaviour of cohorts and actioning those learnings is something Illuma has spoken about before, for example in these articles in ExchangeWire, Digital Marketing magazine and Mediatel. So we’re pleased to see the industry recognising this methodology as an important part of advertising’s future.

We wholeheartedly support Google’s stated mission to achieve a ‘privacy-first web’ and the vision of a future with “no need to sacrifice relevant advertising and monetization in order to deliver a private and secure experience.”

In particular we will be closely following the development of FLoC-based cohorts, due to enter public trials this spring. After all, the idea of prioritising the common interest, understanding it and acting upon it, seems like an excellent guiding rail for any industry.