Google Topics API and why Contextual targeting will be king again!

Google shelves FLoC, introduces Topics API. This is a major turning point in identity targeting as it marks the end of Google’s attempt to use some sort of diluted user-identification viz. storing user identity on server-side, assigning users to cohorts etc.

Topics API is essentially audience segmentation (or what Tacoda called behavioral-targeting in 2006 – you read that right, 15 years back). Anybody who has used Lotame, Bluekai, Adobe, etc would agree that audience segments don’t move the performance needle much. So, Topics API is Google’s attempt at softening the identity blow by offering some sort of namesake makeshift alternative.

Two important things to note here – 
1. As per my understanding, this requires every website to opt-in (participate) in the Topics API program. I don’t know why any publisher would leak… ahem, “share” their valuable audience data to Google for some sort of cooperative effort. In the past 15 years in ad-tech, I have not seen a single cooperative effort succeed.
2. Google claims that they will not be sending any profile information back to their servers. All this data and information about topics of interest will be processed and stored client-side (browser). This shows a strong level of commitment towards safeguarding user-privacy. I am genuinely surprised here.

Contextual targeting will be king!

Some trivia: In 2008, when my co-founders and I started Vizury, Tacoda and Audience Science, the only two behavioral-targeting companies around, were huge inspirations. Ad-tech was evolving some alternative targeting methodologies to contextual targeting. 15 years later, we’re going to see ad-tech come full-circle by going back to contextual targeting.

Gourav Chindlur
CEO, Tercept Inc.

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