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Consent Management Platforms 101

Consent Management Platforms

Consent Management Platforms 101

Cookie consent is something that affiliates are increasingly coming across, so what does it  mean for the average publisher using affiliate marketing?

Cookie acceptance

What Are Cookies?

Everyone knows what cookies are – or think they do. Put simply a cookie is an alphanumeric file stored on a user’s device to identify them and their online behaviours. In fact most users will have hundreds or thousands saved into their browser whether its a desktop or a phone.  In simple terms there are better cookies (first-party) or worse ones (third-party).  To help understand these Moonpull’s illustration of the former being a memory (good) and the latter being eavesdroppers (bad) is a useful conceptual description.

Even simple website functionality relies on this simple and unobtrusive device. It has been the way cookie data has been shared and even misused that has become the issue. 

We’ve also been hearing about how third-party cookies are disappearing this year. That’s now started on Chrome – though Safari and all Apple devices have blocked third-party cookies for several years in their drive to ITP.  Other parts of the advertising industry talk about ‘cookieless’ approaches, what they really mean is tracking without third-party cookies.

Most affiliate networks are completing moving their advertisers over to using just first party cookies or have a thorough plan in place. So from an affiliate perspective, all should be covered.

Why are Consent Platforms Being More Widely Used?

However, along with the deprecation-induced changes in tracking there has been a legislative-driven steady movement towards more rigorous cookie compliance. This appears in the banners like this over a landing page delivered by a Consent Management Platform (CMP).  These are often from third party technology/compliance businesses such as OneTrust, Didomi, Tealium and others. 

There are variations in how they show up from the simple “I’m OK with Cookies” through to EU compliant ones with multiple boxes to choose which type of cookie to allow.

Different global, regional and local regulations apply.  Perhaps the most well-known are in Europe with the consent framework described in European GDPR rules, coupled with the earlier PECR legislation. In the USA, we hear of California’s CCPA and there is legislation also now increasingly being rolled out across other states. 

Last year there were 5 states, during 2023 that rose to 11, with more going through the legislative process. Many other countries are also strengthening regulations for online activity, such as Canada, Australia and others. Most networks have information available, and affiliates working globally should check out regulations such as the EU-US privacy shield.

Publishers will of course need to decide whether they need to implement a CMP for their own websites and market; free tools for a simple device are available as WordPress plugins.

How do CMPs Affect Tracking?

This will depend on how the advertiser or website owner has configured their CMP. There is evidence that a CMP will affect how a visitor interacts with a website – and according to the Drum, up to 50% of users decline cookies (depending on how they are asked). 

In many cases where a CMP is presented to a user from an affiliate referral, particularly in Europe, cookies (and javascript tags or local storage) will be withheld until the visitor clicks ‘Accept All’. Only then will tracking be initiated.

On a simple level, advertisers with no CMP in place are more likely to track, so it is beneficial in the short term for publishers to concentrate on those. It’s also important to ensure that first-party tracking is set up correctly of course.

Action Points

Most networks have issued guidance for publishers and here are seven key points that publishers need to put in place in relation to consent and compliance generally:

  1. Assess the impact of consent legislation in their target market and on their websites
  2. Ensure transparency for website visitors – including of course an FTC compliant affiliate disclosure
  3. Ensure any personal user data being processed is recorded and used lawfully, securely stored and documented
  4. Upgrade privacy policies and include a cookie consent capture if your market requires it
  5. Anonymize user data where practical
  6. Keep up to date via affiliate networks’ latest information
  7. Assess the advertisers being promoted to ensure you appreciate whether their CMPs affect affiliate tracking of your referrals

For further reading, the CMP providers have a lot of resources, blogs and videos on CMP implementation for advertisers and publishers. The Moonpull blog also has further resources on this and other tracking issues.

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Chris has worked in affiliate since 2002, initially with the buyat network, AOL and Awin. After a period client side launching a program for Easyspace, joined Linkdex and then founded Publisher Discovery which was acquired in 2018. Chris is now CMO for Moonpull and is a current PMA board member.

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