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GSK and Nestle want the walled gardens of the tech giants to fall before they go full programmatic

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Nestle won't be 'programmatic-only' digital media buyers until the walled garden technology stacks of online media owners tumble so that they can target people with richer data.

The world’s biggest ad spenders think they’re being backed into a corner when it comes to betting heavily on one of the big five online media owners – Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Alibaba. They don’t want to spend millions of pounds pumping ads through five different technology stacks but can’t continue using cookies and somehow need to access the people-based data locked behind closed doors.

It’s an impasse between advertiser and media owner stunting the flow of ad budgets into automation. On top of that, marketers are wary of the risks of using one company due to concerns losing control of their first-party data and the objectivity of the ad tech. The issue needs to be addressed soon, according to top digital media marketers from GSK and Nestle, speaking at this week's Ad:Tech London conference, or else media plans will be missing crucial accurate data.

Facebook has tried to fix these concerns, assuring clients it’s not a closed ecosystem. The company’s ad tech boss told The Drum last month that the safeguards around its data protect its users’ data.

“The problem that we have in the industry at the moment is that large publishers – Facebook, Google, Apple, Alibaba and Amazon – all have data that’s much better than cookie data but behind walled gardens,” said Khurram Hamid, global head of digital media at GSK.

Speaking on a panel at the event, he added that to access any of those publishers' data then he would have to use their tech stack. “All of a sudden I'm running five technology stacks. I can't do that,” he claimed.

The reasons for running more than one platform to spread brand messages are clear. And that’s where the need for independent and agonistic tech solutions becomes apparent. However, Hamid says he’s yet to see a “solution: that can do that across all the platforms, given the closed nature of many of the big online media owners. “If we don’t change as an industry in pushing publishers and agencies to start reducing these walled gardens down then large advertises will never move all of their money into programmatic,” he added.

Nestle’s digital lead in the UK and Ireland Gawain Owen shared these concerns and added that it was indicative of marketers becoming more sophisticated about programmatic ad buying. Speaking on the same panel, he reiterated his call for marketers to “brief your agency correctly on your KPIs to get results from programmatic”. The company’s programmatic plan is more advanced than most, with it now considering the viability of its own in-house data management platform that would better segment audience data.

Despite the challenges from some of ad land’s biggest players, the walled garden debate is unlikely to subside. There’s no competitive gain for online players in further standarising their ads or using the same data as their rivals. Indeed, those data owners with rich user insights and sharper targeting are becoming the rule rather than the exception at a time when advertisers are being pushed to personalise at scale.

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Seb Joseph

Hi, I'm the news editor at The Drum. Give me a shout if you have any questions about our news coverage or would like to pitch in a story.

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