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How to Demystify the Future of Identity Through Testing and Collaboration

Tim Cross  08 April, 2021

Emma NewmanGoogle’s announcement that it won’t support alternative identifiers within its own ad tech stack opens up an opportunity for the rest of the digital ad ecosystem to develop attractive alternatives, and encourage less reliance on the walled gardens says Emma Newman, CRO EMEA at PubMatic.

But for this to happen, stakeholders will need to collaborate more effectively, and take the opportunity to test alternative solutions now before Google’s cookie changes are enforced. In this piece Newman lays out the steps the industry needs to be taking now, and explains why she believes the industry as a whole can be better off as a result of the changes being made today.

Today, many premium publishers have adopted a blended approach to revenue generation that incorporates advertising, subscriptions, contributions, licensing, and syndication models. For many, advertising remains the primary revenue driver but rather than operating in a silo, as it has done in the past, advertising co-exists in harmony with other revenue streams. This has been made possible due to the ability to use data from each source to enrich the others, delivering better user experiences, greater audience addressability, higher campaign performance, and yield. 

From preparation to action 

Publishers and advertisers have been bombarded with a multitude of ID solutions and are now looking to SSPs to actively a/b test and determine the efficacy and scale of different approaches. Initial learnings have taught us that publishers and advertisers need to take a diverse approach that incorporates independent ID solutions, browser-based solutions, cross-publisher solutions, and contextual targeting. Doing so will spread the risk that uncertainty presents. Holistic contextual targeting and ID-based strategies should transform and simplify personalisation and bridge the gap between data and inventory that powers the digital advertising ecosystem.

Google’s announcement that they will not build or support independent ID solutions within their technology has triggered a change in mood across the industry. While questions will be raised over Google’s dominant position and how far they will be able to push this going forward there is much positivity about the acceleration in adoption of independent solutions and data alliances and the opportunity to diversify spend and reduce the reliance on the walled gardens.

What have we learned from Safari and Firefox advertising so far?

While Chrome browser boasts the largest market share, many publishers actually see upwards – traffic from Safari and Firefox and have been experimenting with non-cookie-based targeting. Tests have proven that independent ID solutions are capable of giving advertisers a level of audience data needed to generate the same ROI from an unknown identity as they would from a known. 

Today, there is a clear understanding that publishers need to do a better job of communicating the value exchange to consumers and building solutions that put consumer experience first. Predictive modelling based on audience scoring enables publishers to segment audiences based on the likelihood that they are interested in consuming certain content which requires sharing data, for example, newsletters, community hubs, and areas where they can access premium editorial. Promoting these options though personalised messaging at the right stage of the consumer journey should maximise the amount of first-party data a publisher can collect and therefore monetise. 

Bringing addressability to programmatic advertising

The hybrid approach that publishers are using combined with robust testing will be a significant driver of bringing audience addressability into programmatic as it creates a multiplier effect on the number of IDs in the ecosystem. However, there is a risk that if mis-managed the value of these IDs will diminish. To mitigate against this scenario, we need tools that are capable of combining many disparate IDs and data sources and transforming that information into actionable insights for advertisers looking to address those audiences. 

Very few individual publishers have enough stand alone scale to compete with the walled gardens and simply pooling inventory is not enough. Publishers need to collaborate from a reader and content perspective in order to identify behavioural synergies such as how consumers want to read editorial and where they want to read it. From here publishers can make inventory available to media buyers in the way they want to buy it and take advantage of the efficiencies offered by programmatic by giving buyers more confidence in the quality of the data that is being used to execute programmatic deals.  

The success of The Ozone Project in the UK and Net ID in Germany has proven the potential for publisher alliances to utilise programmatic in order to compete with the  walled gardens. The next phase of development will be the arrival of even more sophisticated planning, reporting, and optimisation tools within these alliances to enable programmatic buyers to reach addressable audiences at scale in a personalised way with minimum effort. What remains unclear, however, is how publisher login alliances will operate across international borders and solve for multiple languages, currencies, and country specific regulations. It’s not impossible, but it’s certainly more complex than building single-market solutions.  

Where will we stand when the dust has settled?

The signs suggest that the industry will be better off as a result of the changes we’re seeing being made today. 

There is more focus than ever before in transforming advertising for the better. The opportunity to truly understand the efficacy of independent ID solutions and to have more control over data will allow brands and publishers to build better relationships with consumers. Improved consumer relationships mean we can look forward to higher engagement, loyalty, and improved consumer trust in digital advertising. The net effect could be greater yield for publishers and greater ROI for advertisers. 

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