Walled Gardens Brand Strategy The Future of Work

A new year & a refreshed open web – uncover the opportunities outside the walls in 2022


By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

December 15, 2021 | 6 min read

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2021 has been monumental for digital advertising, thanks largely to the spotlight placed on identity and the changes marketers have implemented around the use of consumer data for targeted advertising. Don’t worry, this isn’t another identity article, but rather one that looks at the lay of the programmatic land for the next 12 months, uncovering the opportunities for marketers who are ready to venture outside the walled gardens.

The opportunities for advertisers on the open internet are endless

The opportunities for advertisers on the open internet are endless

Transparency is once again on every marketer’s lips as programmatic ad land rebuilds for a privacy-first world. What’s on the horizon is a new ‘eutopia’ state with all sides coming together to achieve one common goal: Web 3.0, a decentralized, private and secure, user-centric internet that creates a more honest, open ecosystem for all those that exist within it.

Right now, there’s a huge disconnect between where advertisers are investing ad dollars and how consumers are spending their time. In the UK, an 80% slice of the £14bn digital advertising market is spent within the tech giants’ walled gardens – and, as the identity landscape changes and our industry becomes more fragmented, these walls are only going to get higher.

Imagine a world of gardens with transparent walls – a very large greenhouse, if you like – with fewer compromises, in which you can see and do everything in collaboration with partners, while protecting consumers and their privacy. That’s a garden every advertiser should want to visit; a place where everyone can have a voice and the ability to make change.

A data rich place to play

Currently, advertisers have limited ways in which they can utilize the data stored within walled gardens and reporting back on their investment is opaque at best. What’s more, when a user leaves the walled garden to explore the open web, any learnings discovered about them within those walls are kept there, leaving advertisers struggling to create a seamless digital journey that meets the customer’s high expectations.

“Within the walled gardens, customer data is only used for the benefit of the tech company themselves, not for the benefit of the user – the value exchange is just not there,” says Karan Singh, commercial director at Xandr. “There will always be a place for walled gardens – they have reach and scale. With billions of users going through the platform collecting data all the time, it’s a very data rich place to play to hit budgets quickly and effectively.”

“But if every advertiser operates in the same place, targets the same dataset against the same user generated content, it’s going to be difficult to create any competitive advantage,” he adds. “Reach and scale with no engagement is pointless. Currently, advertisers are reliant on creative to create any kind of differentiation – but that isn’t enough. To stand out, the creative should be working in tandem with innovative solutions and dynamic formats which are only found through premium publishers on the open web.”

Leveling the playing field

Across the open web, advertisers have choice, and a voice over what happens. Choice and differentiation across open spaces is where advertisers can really innovate.

“If we level the playing field, we’ll get to a point where everyone is competing in the best interests of the people within the ecosystem – the buyers, the sellers and consumers,” says Singh.

“As an advertiser, the ability to innovate comes from learning and you learn through partners who offer a more consultative service. With a more level playing field, the onus is on the tech partners to continually think about how they can expand, grow and solve industry challenges, and each will begin to offer their own unique service, because they need to compete for consumers and advertisers’ attention.”

Transparent walls

The opportunities for advertisers on the open internet are endless. Here choice, control, differentiation and innovation can thrive. In response to increased consumer privacy and brand safety efforts, we have seen advertisers their own marketplace which allows them to create their own garden specific partners who support the needs of their business.

By streamlining everything into one marketplace, they get the flexibility, support and technology of a single platform that’s fully transparent and offers a seamless, frictionless way of buying across multiple formats and audiences.

“We recognize there is a need for gardens – they just don’t need walls,” says Singh. “You need to be able to see into them, they need to be inclusive. If the garden or ecosystem is end-to-end, that’s all-encompassing. Once you’re in, you’re locked in. Having transparent walls where you can look in but can’t do anything within isn’t enough. You might be able to see what’s going on inside, but you don’t have a say in what happens. You need one that’s flexible enough to be able to go in and do whatever you need to do as a stakeholder in that open space to have a say in what goes on in it.”

2022 and beyond

As the year comes to an end, now is the opportunity for self-reflection. Reflect on your business, your strategy, your partnerships and your operations, to date. What has worked in the past, is it going to be right for your future? While the advice is not to stop everything you’re doing, the time is right to ring fence some budget for a test program, to explore other opportunities and figure out what you need for your business to thrive and who may be able to help you. If you do that, you might be surprised with the results you see.

“See if it does benefit you to build your own ecosystem because you want transparency or choice” says Singh. “If you want to differentiate, choose a different partner, see what your strategy is, set that out, find the partner to go on the journey with and start building out test programs.”

Walled Gardens Brand Strategy The Future of Work

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