Adtech has always been a fast-moving industry and it sometimes can feel like we are in a constant state of flux. With consumer privacy concerns, changes to regulation and changes by companies leading to increased scrutiny, the industry is evolving once again. The impetus now is on advancing it to ensure digital buyers and sellers put consumer privacy front of mind while still creating a relevant advertising experience for the end user.
Relevance – how publishers can help
According to a recent study by Integral Ad Science, 94% of consumers remain concerned about their data privacy, yet 81% of them demonstrated a preference for contextual relevance in advertising. So, once third-party cookies are gone, how are we as an industry going to strike the right balance between privacy and relevance?
Publisher first-party data, generated using publisher-provided identifiers, are going to be a key part of the solution. This is good news for the publishing industry, but also introduces risk that will need to be carefully managed in partnership with tech platforms.
In the new world order, publishers are going to be in a privileged position, uniquely placed to help advertisers achieve relevance. They enjoy trusted relationships with their users and are able to have a conversation with them about the value exchange that needs to take place in order for them to access their premium content. They can request consent via mechanisms such as the transparency and consent framework (TCF) and are able to generate persistent identifiers via first-party cookies and email log-ins. Marketers will need to lean heavily into their publisher relationships as no-one else in the ecosystem currently has these capabilities.
There are a number of different techniques that publishers can use to recognize a user over multiple sessions. First-party cookies have the benefit of scale, something most marketers are also looking to ensure, as the identifier can be dropped on any user that has cookies enabled. Their disadvantage, however, is a limited shelf life as they are reset as soon as the user deletes their cookies. Identity can be tied to logged-in email addresses, which has the benefit of a longer shelf life and potentially richer data sets, but reduces scale.
Publishers need to consider whether they want to participate in industry identity solutions such as UID2, or whether they prefer to go it alone with their own identifier. Both are viable options with their own pros and cons. It’s important for publishers to work closely with their tech partners to fully understand the impact of the various solutions on both their business and their ability to monetize their most valuable asset in the right way.
Great power equals great responsibility
As a gatekeeper of consumer identity, publishers are accountable for maintaining privacy standards and ensuring their users’ choices are always respected. This responsibility means it’s crucial that they evaluate their tech stack and tech partners to ensure they completely understand how their identifiers are being consumed and shared through the supply chain.
The top considerations for publishers should be around how their tech partners store identifiers, whether their identifiers are being mapped to others, and what controls exist over additional partners having access to them.
To maintain users’ privacy, first-party identifiers need to be treated as confidential and not mapped to any other identifiers, common keys or data sets without the publisher’s specific consent. Granular controls need to be in place so publishers can limit the transmission of identifiers and ensure they are only sent to their trusted partners, rather than broadcast on each and every bid request. Tech partners have had long enough now to develop robust solutions and should have well-defined product roadmaps that solve these concerns. If they don’t, then it is time for publishers to rethink the platforms they trust to handle one of their most valuable assets.
Maximize the value of first-party data
Beyond privacy, it’s also important that publishers think through the best way they can work with marketers to monetize their first-party data assets. Xandr is leading the charge with innovation in this space, working towards the creation of a publisher first-party data marketplace, allowing publishers to price up their data segments and apply these directly in the DSP from an ‘a la carte’ menu. As is the case with first-party data, it will only be applicable in the first-party context and not cross domain, ensuring publishers maintain the high standard of data protection expected of them by their users.
Even though the third-party cookie has been given a stay of execution by Google, it is time for our industry to fully embrace the next stage of our evolution. In reality, third-party cookies are already gone from most browser environments, and that is why publishers who are establishing a first-party data strategy tied to publisher-provided identifiers are already seeing a revenue uplift. Don’t delay the inevitable – join the programmatic privacy shift today.