Accessing and Activating First-Party Data: Overheard at the Digiday + Permutive Lunch & Learn

March 02, 2021 6 min read

  • Kristy Schafer

    VP, Americas at Permutive

  • By 2022 the third-party cookie will disappear. As brands search for ways to continue targeting consumers on the open web, with relevant and personalized content, many are turning to first-party data. Publishers are in a unique position — one where they can be fairly paid for the value they bring to the advertising ecosystem. 

    That value lies in publishers’ direct relationship with their audiences, so how are they beginning to work with brands on the cookie challenge and what issues are they up against? To find out, Permutive teamed up with Digiday to facilitate a conversation about this new era of digital advertising, and were joined by senior executives at global publishers. 

    The session was held under Chatham House rules to ensure attendees could speak freely. Neither the identity nor the affiliation of the attendees will be shared, but here are some conversation highlights that speak to the opportunities, challenges and solutions for brands and publishers when accessing and activating first-party data. 

    The sun is setting on the endless tracking of users across domains   

    The advertising industry has been talking about the end of the third-party cookie for a while, even during the height of the pandemic it made trade press headlines and was discussed at numerous virtual conferences. But attendees noted a sea change towards the end of 2020, as the deadline nears: 

    “Last year we were talking to people about privacy sunsets — not only the cookie, but IDFA — and what it really meant for the notion of identity, privacy and regulation. And now we’re looking at this becoming a reality very soon.”  

    “I’m picking up a lot of anxiety about this, people really aren’t 100% sure what this really means to the billions of dollars of marketing spend, as we get away from these traditional tracking modes. But there’s a lot of opportunity because there’s an inflection point when companies — agencies, brands, and publishers — are going to do all sorts of testing to help figure it out.”

    Publishers must fight data silos to successfully scale their audiences

    Publishers are in no doubt about the value of their first-party data. But for enterprise publishers with multiple titles, there’s an issue with scale and building a strong advertiser strategy. Publishers also need to address data silos and how to approach different requests depending on who they’re talking to — the advertiser or the agency:   

    “As a publisher with complex back ends, it takes so long to bring [data] together… It’s almost like managing seven different project plans for the same execution. And there is no revenue in this unless we have scalable audiences. Once we start targeting, these audiences are shrinking, and they’re getting smaller and smaller. The pain point isn’t having rich data, it isn’t having huge brand relationships, or selling global, it’s execution internally.” 

    “It’s all dependent on the agency and the advertiser. Advertiser scale is “less is more” because they want a very granular audience. From an agency perspective, [they] have X amount of budget to spend for this campaign so we need to give them scale. You have to kind of choose your battle… who do you want to talk to first. A lot of advertisers are switching over and bringing their media buying internally and saying, ‘We want to control this,’ to know where [ad] dollars are being spent.”  

    Logged out: Publishers are using known users to understand unknown users 

    The likelihood of users logging in to various websites to access content was up for discussion, and publishers wished they had started this journey earlier. Publishers also discussed how they can converge their data with information from brands, such as CRM data, and how they can gather more information on users that aren’t logged in:   

    “Everyone’s so used to just having free content — googling, finding an article, reading that article and bouncing. There may be groups of people who are not going to want to log into things. Look at all the magazine publishers, there’s no portal to manage your account… that was a big misstep. We’ve gone 20 years now, [we] should have created this a long time ago and we haven’t.”  

    “90 to 95% of the web is going to be immediately unknown users. Outside the first party CRM, I do believe it’s up to us, the publishers, to help those brands navigate what they’re reading, what they’re seeing, what they’re clicking on, what they’re shopping for. We need to learn about who these known users are, and then learn about the unknown users, and then work together with the brands to provide these outcome based opportunities to see if we can first classify, then segment, and then we start to test, learn, test, learn and scale.” 

    Brands are realizing the power of first-party data: 

    Publishers say that brands understand the importance of managing their first party data and applying it to identify people. But they’re missing out on unknown / new audiences —  publishers can uncover relevant behavioral data about these unknown users with the right tools: 

    “Publishers have the audience that brands are looking for, in and outside of their own data sets. I wanted to point out something [that was] said about brands being too focused on first-party data, leaving out or losing out on the potential customers that aren’t in their CRM today. I think there’s an opportunity there where publishers have consumers that would be new to those brands. And we have the data to identify [them].”  

    “It is our belief that it’s up to the publisher to work closely with the brands to help them compliment their strategy, by uncovering unfounded publisher data.” 

    Brands and publishers have an opportunity to rebuild digital advertising  

    Publishers felt a sense of duty to work together to rebuild digital advertising, in a way that protects privacy, ensures user trust, and creates consistency:  

    “Everyone is just trying to protect the way that they’ve done business… grabbing for data, trying to protect the status quo, and [continuing] with what they’re doing — just without the cookie. I don’t think that’s helpful. I think we actually leapfrog and make something new that’s better for the consumer, and better for all of us together.” 

    “[On] the fragmentation of how publishers are defining their first-party data… we need a governing body for consistency. If we can define what the data is and how we compliment it in a way that brands and marketers can see a little bit more consistency — that can be defined templatized and repeated — I think it’ll be easier for brands to navigate.” 

    “One of the most positive things coming out of all of this is much more collaboration between the buy- and sell-side. I think that’s evidenced in some of the industry working groups, which are looking at: How do we solve buying at scale, without a third party cookie. That brings a clear opportunity for publisher data to fuel those environments. And I think that collaboration is something that really hasn’t occurred in the past at the same level.” 

    The conversation that took place at this Digiday + Permutive event shows there’s a massive opportunity for publishers to take back the stack, reposition and develop clear data strategies that bring value and increase revenue. But it does take working together, with other publishers and advertisers, to find the right balance of what that looks like and how we can drive change together. 

    To find out more about future-proofing your data strategy, get in touch by requesting a demo.