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Data collaboration: Should you lead, fast follow, or lag?

by David Danziger

August 31, 2022

In the post-Cannes wrap up articles in June, there was a lot of talk about the energy among attendees, the buzz at being back in person, the quality of the discussions, and, yes, the hand-wringing on data. A Digiday article from early summer, when speaking of the emergence of clean room software, noted that everyone was talking about it but that marketers are only starting to implement it. Why? “There’s no clear timeline on when they’re going to go from a nice-to-have technology to a must have.” That statement is 100% accurate. That being said, it’s pretty clear that the marketing leaders have already licensed and are operating now with rapidly evolving and maturing use cases. Fast followers are laying groundwork with proofs of concepts, trials, and evaluations.

Naturally there are many (on both the demand and the supply side) who are waiting until there’s a known, final nail in the coffin for third party cookies. Or they’re concerned about “making the wrong choice,” as the clean room software landscape takes shape. But such an approach likely misses the mark in a few ways.

Wait for certainty? Or take bold action?

On the first point, while date certainty on third party cookie deprecation in Chrome may be a moving target, that’s only a part of the story on clean room software. The opportunity presented by data collaboration across clouds goes far deeper than just “death of the cookie” narratives. There are real live use cases for activation, analytics, and measurement where companies are deriving value today.

On the second point regarding fear of making the wrong choice, there’s some sense that the current and emerging clean room software companies are going to create a new set of walls, making it difficult for companies in different ecosystems to collaborate. Choose Vendor A and you’re locked in to others who choose Vendor A. The reality is that the clear trend is towards interoperability. The very purpose of data clean room software is to enable clients to collaborate with other partners to make the most of their own first party data and others but only in ways intended and permissioned by data owners. With collaboration as the broad goal and privacy enhancing technologies and governance as the vehicle, disconnected and walled off systems would be a bug not a feature. So the world of clean room software is already gravitating and will continue to gravitate toward interoperability. While companies should work hard to make a good choice among the clean room software vendors, fear of making the wrong choice should not drive paralysis.

Leaders have implemented and fast followers are accelerating

With these two points dispatched, the question of clean room software going from nice-to-have to must have really boils down to a question of a company’s own marketing strategy. Some companies choose to lead when it comes to how they work with marketing data and associated technologies. Others choose to fast follow. And yes, some companies whether by actual choice or just because they are slow, end up lagging behind and then trying to play catch up. My suspicion is that this is actually the real question when it comes to adoption of clean room software. The leaders in an array of industry verticals (including consumer packaged goods, retail, financial services, media and entertainment, gaming and others) are already driving robust use cases for partner data collaboration with clean rooms as the enabler.

In many cases, they’re paving the way and pulling along fast followers. That process is beginning. As data seekers find builders and vice versa when one invites another into a data clean room collaboration, the leader + fast follower dynamic accelerates. We’re at the earliest point in that part of the cycle now. The next 12 months will see leaders consolidate opportunities and drive new use cases. Fast followers will begin to adopt and extend the possibilities. Which will leave laggards trying to figure out how to catch up. Next year as Cannes is coming up, the question will be less about when clean room software goes from nice-to-have to must have, but about who has taken the initiative for the next evolution in marketing, and who is suddenly trying to catch up and make up for lost time.


data collaboration
data clean room
cookieless future
first party data