Publishing’s first-party data challenge impacts the whole ad ecosystem

Data Challenge
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It’s generally acknowledged that there will be no silver-bullet solution to the ad targeting conundrum, post cookies. The future will likely bring a mix of first-party data, contextual media planning and alternative IDs. Owned data will have a role in all of these options, and collecting, organizing, and deploying it remains a data challenge for publishers and the rest of the digital advertising ecosystem.

  • Many publishers have already embraced the need to develop their own first-party data stores ahead of the third-party cookie shutdown. Strategies around subscriptions, site registration, and newsletters programs are at the centre of data capture strategies.
  • However, having data is not enough and, according to Chief Strategy Officer for Smart AdServer, Romain Job, there is a need for publishers to develop a better understanding of the key obstacles between them and meeting the first-party data challenge. Writing in WNIP, he defines these as ‘low scalability, data ownership protection and activation infrastructure cost’.
  • Job said one of the ‘chief sticking points’ that prevents advertisers switching to owned insight is limited scalability. As well as hindering publishers trying to position ad propositions around deterministic data from consenting users, it raises issues with efficient ad targeting, frequency and reporting. He said:

Breaking through the scale barrier is going to be a complex task.

Achieving scale

Few publishers have the necessary independent reach to deliver advertising at the scale achieved by Big Tech or media giants like Axel-Springer’s Insider or the NBCUniversal. But Job sees a possible way forward in data sharing.

  • He notes that moves toward data collaboration in the publishing industry have been relatively slow. While advertising alliances like the Ozone Project have seen some success, most publishers are understandably hesitant to share their data with potential competitors and are wary of data leakage. But siloing data in dedicated DSPs limits scalability.
  • The answer, at least in part, may lie with data clean-room technology. Emerging solutions emphasise the importance of securing audience privacy, while promising to ‘unlock’ the  data. A one-time authorized query allows buyers and sellers to create unified insights and basic identities, without handing over data.
  • The clean-room concept is getting more attention, but Job says it is ‘not quite fully formed yet’. He sees an absence of clarity around practicalities, including integration with other publishing systems and the balance between monetization and activation.

What publishers need right now are transparent, flexible, and open technologies that will allow them to maintain control easily and efficiently.

Clean rooms + Curation

In addition to clean-room solutions, Job sees data curation platforms as having a role in helping publishers, and the entire advertising ecosystem, face up to the first-party data challenge.

Curation platforms let publishers upload diverse first-party data into broader inventory that they can use for audience extension. They can then apply custom business rules and curation preferences to put together curated marketplaces: building audiences by geographic location, domain, context and device type, or matching them to advertising KPIs.

Job explained that, once connected to a DSP, these packages give publishers the means to differentiate their ad offering in the crowded digital marketplace, while maintaining ownership and control of their data. He said: 

Clean rooms are poised to be an integral element of hitting this objective, and when combined with a curation platform, it looks set to be the best choice for unleashing owned data value for all, now.


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