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Choice - the key to keeping the open internet alive

Key to keeping the open internet alive

Historically, digital advertising across the open internet has been a great democratising force. It affords consumers choice and free access to top quality content, in the form of news, videos, music and games, while simultaneously funding media owners around the world. But, for the past few years, advertisers have had to negotiate a plethora of hurdles from Government regulation, platform privacy policies and the removal of third-party cookies, in order to achieve relevance in digital advertising today. With the recent announcement from Google confirming that no cookie 2.0 is on the way, the open web and the advantages this space offers to advertisers and publishers alike, is facing a new challenge.

Traditional targeting and measurement strategies that the digital advertising industry has grown up around need to be rebuilt for a privacy-first world, but, for Xandr, the impending depreciation of third-party cookies is being met with optimism. It believes that this brings about a great opportunity to find new and better ways of working together. In the face of change, innovation, collaboration and choice, across an efficient and transparent ecosystem is going to be crucial to move forward.

“We don’t believe there is a silver bullet, a single solution that will solve all the impending identity challenges; instead, it requires collaboration and innovation across a variety of technologies and partners so that we can both future proof and improve our industry,” said Chloe Gilman, Northern Europe director, Xandr. “Choice is what’s going to change the industry for the better, so let’s facilitate this when building for a privacy-first world. We need choice for consumers to decide how their data is used, choice for brands to determine the best way to reach their consumers, and choice for publishers in how they monetise their content.”

Reshaping digital advertising

The digital advertising industry is returning to a ‘consumer first’ approach, and rightly so. Reaching the right audience doesn’t just mean delivering the right message but also means meeting them at the point where they are most engaged. With most UK households now having access to more than nine connected devices, according to Statista Research Department, digital video has increased in popularity among advertisers and consumers as people move away from ‘big-screens’ to view content on smartphones, connected TVs and gaming consoles.

In the recently launched Roadmap to Relevance, UK, a companion report to Xandr’s Global Relevance Report, it seeks to understand how advertisers locally are activating, prioritising and thinking about data when it comes to digital video. 81% of UK brands and agencies surveyed ranked reaching the right audience in their top three most important steps to delivering a relevant video ad experience to consumers. This is not going to change; what happens next will continue to be data-centric. In fact, Xandr’s report found that 97% of respondents confirmed they had made investments in data plans over the last 12 months.

The challenge is how to leverage data in a privacy-first world, so buyers can continue to hold consumer attention across numerous devices as well as maximise their media spend. Xandr’s suite of curation tools are built with both buyer and publisher first-party data in mind, offering ways to apply and activate data & supply through a single deal ID, ensuring control, scale and reach to meet their desired audience.

Evolving Partnerships

A thriving and sustainable open internet relies on revenue from advertising. In order to achieve this, the industry needs to apply collective learnings for the better; building partnerships and products which benefit all sides of the ecosystem, not just one.

At the end of 2019, the Danish publishing houses, JP/Politikens Hus, TV2 and Berlingske Media, joined forces with Xandr to create ‘The Publisher Platform,’ a new digital advertising platform guaranteeing Danish quality context and impact for advertisers. Winners of the Chair Award at this years’ Drum Digital Advertising Awards, this partnership was celebrated as an “exceptional example of collaborative improvement to the programmatic marketplace” and “a future-forward technology that the industry needs” by Christian Juhl, CEO at GroupM. The platform is based on open advertising technology created by Xandr with an easy and user-friendly booking interface developed by Nexta. It is favoured already by six leading media houses and, as a non-profit association, every penny invested into it goes back to advertising purchasing and fueling the open internet.

Whilst third-party cookies have been an important component of digital advertising for over 20 years, it is important to note that they have not been the only component. Other leading browsers have already phased them out and non-desktop devices such as mobile and Connected TV have never relied on cookies. Instead, alternative solutions available today can be implemented to help us begin to redefine how brands can reach consumers using their data to engage with them in privacy-safe environments and with purpose. 60% of respondents to Xandr’s Roadmap to Relevance UK, said they will lean more heavily on contextual data for their video ad strategies in 2021.

“Next generation contextual technology relies on content descriptors and other information about a web page that allows advertisers to reach their desired audience without the need for ID-based targeting,” says Gilman. “Xandr’s investment into this area means many of these partners are only available via our open API driven platform. They have been tried, tested and proven to be a great alternative to cookie-based approaches.”

Keeping your options open

Imagine a world where all the ads we see online take place within just one or two walled gardens rather than the rich ecosystem that we enjoy today. Accessing free quality content from a range of sources is what makes the open internet so valuable. Independent publishers are not just the foundations of the open internet but the cornerstone of democracy, providing choice for consumers.

According to Xandr’s report, 74% of the UK brands and agencies surveyed agreed an open ecosystem, which enables them to transact with all media owners, across all formats, and allows them to use first-party and third-party data assets freely, is preferential to a walled garden with turn-key solutions.

“Walled gardens are necessary for parts of a brand’s marketing – there is no doubt they have unparalleled reach – however, in return for utilising this, advertisers have to give up a lot of control,” said Gilman. “They lose the ability to differentiate from their competitors as they all appear in the same space. Transparency is also limited, both in terms of how their targetable data is used and also how the buyers’ ad dollar is really spent. Consolidating marketing to walled gardens essentially means that you’re handing the keys over; losing control over your data and allowing someone else to steer your ship.”

With 43% of UK brands and agencies citing inadequate measurement tools within the top three challenges they face today, the open internet offers the chance for advertisers to collaborate with alternative technologies that can help them determine how to select and evaluate KPIs, bringing attribution metrics such as brand and sales lift back into consideration alongside traditional performance. With advertisers today striving for differentiation from their competition, Xandr is calling for them to start testing new technology to help them understand what their digital strategy will look like going into next year.

The road ahead may look daunting at first, but it is in fact an opportunity for us all to be part of the next evolution of digital advertising. While the questions around the future of identity are far from answered, one thing is certain: those looking to stay in control of their future need choice; choice in data, choice in partnerships and choice in content. This is how we can make sure that the open internet not only survives, but thrives.

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