First-Mover Publishers with First-Party Strategies
As the industry moves closer to a cookie-less world, publishers have an increasingly important role to play. No matter which side of the cookie-alternative debate you’re on, one thing everyone agrees on is the importance of first-party data.
Direct first-party relationships that publishers have with their audience have become increasingly attractive to advertisers, a motivation for many publishers to introduce their own solutions. Many will need to recoup lost revenue coming from partnerships with third-party data providers collecting data through their content. With the cookie ban, this will no longer be possible.
With that in mind, publishers struggled with what monetization would look like in a cookie-less future. Publishers began pursuing beyond-the-cookie strategies that lead them to commercializing their first-party data. By identifying audiences using first-party strategies or extended contextual-targeting offerings that incorporate more granular targeting around audience behaviors and interests, publishers have the opportunity to fill a potential gap for advertisers.
An early example of this was when Condé Nast first introduced its data platform Spire in 2016, which collects and organizes audience data from multiple touchpoints, including offline, digital, websites, apps, and social, which then allows Condé Nast to personalize its digital experiences.
A year later, News Corp launched its own advertising platform in the US called News IQ. This was News Corps’ first endeavor to integrate all of its collective first-party data, premium media properties and data science tools into one unified advertising solution to achieve precise and measurable results.
On the heels of this, Insider Inc. and Vox Media introduced similar offerings. Vox Media’s first-party data platform, Forte helps advertisers tailor ad creative based on consumer interests derived from what content and which publication they are reading. While Insider Inc. launched a way for marketers to target reader segments using reader IDs based on behaviors, interests and intents.
Another interesting move was Meredith’s partnership with Kroger Precision Marketing, the analytics arm of the grocer. This forged a new model that brought together Kroger first-party data with Meredith data and premium inventory that includes shoppable ads. The goal was to create a new offering in the CPG space that provides “closed-loop” measurement which ties together online and offline data to track conversion.
Kroger also forged a similar partnership with Roku that marked its first foray into OTT (over-the-top television). It’s worth noting that the desktop browser-based advertising that relies on tracking with cookies is only one slice of the pie. Browserless environments including connected TV (CTV) and mobile in-app are an increasingly large part of ad budgets. The means of connecting these audiences in a privacy-forward way is one more reason to move beyond the cookie.
Getting the tech stack right is another way to leverage first-party data. Google has encouraged publishers to adopt first-party strategies and invest in a privacy-forward future, publishing a playbook with tips for how to do so. The company most recently announced the rollout of new tools, expanding the use of publisher-provided identifiers to earn more from programmatic ads via their own data.
It’s not all about the data
While data is an important piece of personalized advertising, reaching audiences with the right creative is also important. Approximately 70% of ad success is driven by creative according to Google. Publishers can help advertisers by creating high-touch ad formats that provide a better experience of ads — ads that engage the user with relevant content versus interrupting the content they want.
The user experience will continue to be the holy grail of digital advertising. With their privacy protected, users will expect their experience of advertising to improve. Building trust with their audience will be important for all publishers to work toward. Creating a new thoughtful paradigm that’s transparent and cross-platform will be an important piece to get right.
Publishers have a role to play in this new cookie-less future and reshape the industry as they define their strategy. There’s a unique opportunity to work as a community to create a new standard of privacy-safe advertising opportunities that strike the right balance for both advertiser and audiences.