A cross-garden view of the consumer: pipe dream or possibility?

Alex Merwin, SpotX VP, international, explains possible alternatives to the industry's walled gardens when it comes to conducting successful cross-screen campaigns without sacrificing their first party data.

Alex Merwin, SpotX VP, international, believes successful identity management outside walled gardens is possible

Much of the discourse around walled gardens – web giants with the power to match consumer identities across screens – comes with an us-versus-them mentality. Certainly, these digital media powerhouses, which account for around half of all digital ad spend, want to maintain control of their audience data and the budgets it attracts.

But for app developers, website publishers, broadcast companies and other media owners, the walls create an environment where premium ad opportunities in premium content (which the likes of Facebook and Google rely on for their audiences, but do not create) struggle to compete. This has been widely discussed by the industry. But little progress has been made in finding a solution.

Take TV, which is increasingly being consumed on demand via any internet connected device. These out-of-garden ad opportunities allow marketers to reach consumers in ‘lean-back’ environments with addressable, immersive and engaging video advertising. But, with the walls up, audience-based targeting is expensive, impractical and inconsistent.

You may have heard of DigiTrust, a non-profit industry consortium comprised of online marketing technology platforms and digital publishers who support a standardized user ID. It’s goal is to create an industry-wide identifier to level the playing field between publishers and walled gardens.

Why identity matters

Audience targeting without identity derived from user IDs is just run-of-network. Our demographic, sociographic and psychographic profiles create value for the publishers who attract them and the advertisers who pay for the right to engage with them.

Of course, our identities are anonymized and aggregated to protect our individual privacy. The degree depends on the digital services we are using and the country we live in.

Walled gardens are identity management masters. Their direct consumer relationship creates a deterministic identity database. They can aggregate and anonymize while maintaining addressability. They own the thread that links media exposure and actions back to individuals through the firewalls that protect their privacy.

Providing full stack digital media platforms that connect brand investment and audiences, they retain deterministic identities throughout. Independent platforms are dependent on ‘cookie sync’ integrations to accomplish the same, which dramatically limit their reach. Given this, it is no surprise more than half of all digital ad spend runs through walled gardens and this is expected to grow from 2016 to 2018. (eMarketer, September 2016)

Why leave the garden?

If I’m a brand, who cares if Facebook, Google, Twitter and other American technology giants slurp up all my digital media investment?

It certainly creates a challenging rate negotiating position. As procurement sticks its nose further and further into marketing expenses, digital advertising’s promise of enhanced accountability gets the attention of others in the C-suite. CMOs are under pressure to do more with less. Facebook’s person-based marketing capabilities enable just that. However, if I’m dependent on them and can’t find that capability anywhere else, I’m not going to be able to negotiate better rates on media. Also, my entire advertising strategy can be at risk of being upended if the walled garden I work with decides to change an algorithm within their platform.

Additionally, while reporting tools within these walled gardens are impressive, the reporting capability across walled gardens is not. Our customers aren’t just consuming media on Facebook. With the walls up, visibility across gardens is expensive, impractical and inconsistent. We need a strategy for a holistic view of the consumer, across walled gardens and outside walled gardens.

The most critical issue is the time when our consumers aren’t inside walled gardens at all. Consumers can get TV content, for instance, on demand via any internet connected device. This creates unprecedented opportunities for marketers to reach consumers in ‘lean-back’ environments with addressable, immersive and engaging video advertising.

Do you think the owners of the premium content attracting these audiences are going to hand the keys over to walled gardens who have been belittling TV advertising for years?

DigiTrust and the path forward

Fundamentally, a separation needs to occur between identity management tech and the media delivered against audiences derived from that tech.

In the mobile application ecosystem, this has already occurred with the creation and adoption of the ID for Advertisers (IDFA). The IDFA provides a means of managing identity within and across walled gardens for all mobile in-app advertising. We need an IDFA for the desktop web.

DigiTrust is a non-profit industry consortium comprised of online marketing technology platforms and digital publishers who support a standardized user ID, in order to improve the consumer online experience and deliver a solution for advertisers to more effectively connect with their audiences on the web, outside of walled garden ecosystems.

As a member of the DigiTrust consortium, SpotX recognizes that the creation of an industry-wide user ID enables independent platforms to match walled gardens’ identity management capabilities. This results in decreased load times, better user experience, increased publisher yield and increased choice for advertisers globally. The lost reach and billions of ad calls from the cookie syncing process that occur today will become a thing of the past.

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