Marketers Shift to IP Address Band-Aids Amid Cookie Deprecation


A bevy of alternative identifiers has flooded the market in recent years, promising to usher the advertising industry into a new paradigm once Google Chrome deprecates third-party cookies at the end of 2024.

But the immediate favorite solution among marketers is a data signal that’s very old and decisively not symbolic of a new privacy-conscious era: the IP address.

“Most of the clients are going to use IP addresses in the short term and MAIDS,” or mobile identifiers on Android, said Jonathan O’Brien, programmatic supervisor at digital agency Good Apple. “But [clients will] also do tests on [solutions like] LiveRamp and UID2 because those solutions will have a bit more longevity.”

An IP address is a number that devices—from TVs and laptops to cell towers—use to communicate with each other. IP addresses, as old as the internet itself, are not privacy-safe, since they can be used for fingerprinting individuals. They’re not as accurate as cookies, so they haven’t been used quite as much or received as much regulatory scrutiny as cookies, although both Google and Apple have introduced protocols to limit their use.

Still, IP addresses will continue to be a mainstay of digital advertising because they can easily fill the role of third-party cookies without requiring significant work on the part of advertisers to change their processes.

In mobile environments, the IP address is already a primary identifier after Apple ushered in the cellular cookie apocalypse with the deprecation of IDFA (identifier for advertisers) in 2021, said application development consultant Thomas Petit. Google said it will deprecate mobile identifiers on Android, although it hasn’t said exactly when.

Buyers’ continued dependence on high-reach, deterministic IDs shows the power of inertia in programmatic advertising. While several sources described the IP address as a Band-Aid solution, a permanent fix for cookie deprecation remains elusive.

IP addresses on the media plan

Good Apple’s clients currently use IP addresses for targeting on streaming television, where cookies are not as widespread, and to conduct cross-device targeting and measurement, said O’Brien.

Another common way IP addresses end up in media plans is through various addressability solutions that include them as one of many signals.

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