How agencies and publishers can build stronger relationships

April 14, 2020 6 min read

  • Becky Dutta, VP Customer Success

  • In conversation with Justin Sous, VP and Head of Optimization & Innovation at Kepler Group

    On April 2nd, Permutive’s US-based customers were joined by Justin Sous, VP and Head of Optimization & Innovation at Kepler Group. Kepler provides advanced digital and database services to Fortune 500 clients. Its core services revolve around helping clients use data to power more dynamic and personalized marketing — including programmatic media services, CRM strategy, and management and marketing systems integration.

    The virtual customer event included a Q&A discussion between Justin Sous and Becky Dutta, VP Customer Success at Permutive. It was followed by some breakout sessions among publishers. What emerged was an interesting discussion about data, trust and what’s required to quickly respond to RFPs. Here are Permutive’s takeaways from the conversations, with Justin’s perspective cited throughout.

    First-party data

    Agencies understand that publishers have valuable first-party data

    Kepler Group knows that publishers have a lot of valuable first-party data. As long as there is enough scale behind the audience data that publishers provide to advertisers, this data can be leveraged and activated on effectively. At the moment Kepler often relies on data from DSPs, which includes second-party data from Google, Amazon, or Verizon, because it is cost-effective and works well.

    Publishers can show value by sharing results from forward-thinking brands

    Publishers need to do more to show that their first-party audiences are just as valuable as those built using second or third-party data. First publishers should focus on collecting more first-party data, from site behavior and content engagement as well as eCommerce or declared data. Some of the ways that publishers have started to do this include adding quick surveys or encouraging free registrations. They can use modeling to scale these initial audiences.

    Although it will be a challenge to get the same demographic data or income segments that agencies are accustomed to, publishers can showcase successful campaigns built using first-party data to help start to shift the mindset of agencies. They should collaborate with forward-thinking brands in innovative industries, such as lifestyle or consumer electronics, initially to prove this out.

    Third-party cookies

    Agencies are hoping the tech industry will fix audience targeting

    Today, Kepler Group tends to see differences in performance by browser, focuses its campaigns around Chrome, knowing that targeting using third-party data doesn’t won’t work well in Safari and Firefox. They want to be prepared when Google also eliminates third-party cookies but believe agencies and brands still have time before needing to take action. Emerging technology like Google’s Privacy Sandbox, and a series of other potential solutions, should help address our collective needs and concerns. Current challenges with Covid-19 mean that agencies have more pressing priorities with their brands, like maximizing efficiency and ensuring the right messaging is in market.

    Publishers need to collaborate with agencies and share their capabilities

    Permutive believes that Chrome is likely to take incremental steps in protecting user privacy over the next two years. Agencies should adapt now instead of taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude by starting to activate publisher first-party audiences. This will enable brands to target across all browsers and get a head start. Publishers should layer their first-party audiences onto existing data so that agencies become more familiar with their data capabilities. Publishers can share more details on audience profiles, overlapping segments and user paths, adding this data into PMP deals. Publishers will need to join together to build standard segments and audiences that agencies can come to rely on.

    RFP responses

    Agencies are looking for transparency around how publishers collect and activate data 

    Transparent reporting, data and ad format variety are all important factors in Kepler Group’s RFP process. They are already familiar with the capabilities of publishers they work with regularly so building those relationships is vital. Kepler Group RFPs include questions about: how data is collected and activated, how publishers are maximizing yield and prioritizing inventory in the auction, how publishers generate traffic to their websites and, importantly, how they mitigate fraud.

    Publisher sales teams can educate agencies using data points and stories

    Publisher sales teams should be comfortable talking about data and explaining it to advertisers or agencies, early in the process. They can tell stories using personas, for example a C-Suite user that reads technology content 3 times a week. Data on who has previously interacted with campaigns or new audiences that the agency might not have been aware of can also help to show value. It can be a challenge to balance a quick turnaround while providing quality data but creating standardized templates could make it easier to respond. Agencies can be more collaborative with publishers around campaigns to uncover and develop relevant insights, versus focusing solely on audience activation.


    Agencies require granularity into what impacts performance or brand lift

    Kepler Group uses existing data to estimate the CPM required before a campaign so they can predict what’s required to generate the ideal cost per action (CPA). They want information on what drives performance or brand lift, such as viewability of an ad. Kepler Group uses rapid cycle optimization and testing to quickly adapt campaigns; they want to ensure campaigns are performing well and will look at viewability or CPA throughout the flight (for example). They want granularity into the performance of each publisher for a given campaign.

    Publishers should ensure successful campaigns by sharing regular updates
    The big marketer challenges around using publisher data are consistency and measurement. It could take three to six months to discover whether a particular audience produced a true brand lift. As a result, agencies may find it difficult to predict ROAS. Publishers can empower agencies with mid-flight information on performance.


    Agencies should be creative in their strategic brand recommendations

    The current environment has led to challenges for publishers as advertisers have started to block all Coronavirus content. Justin believes that agencies should be more thoughtful in helping brands navigate the topic of brand suitability and brand adjacency based on their industry and product. They continue to rely on publishers to produce compelling and accurate content.

    Publishers can use increased traffic to collect additional user data

    As highlighted by the publishers, travel and retail brands have stopped or decreased their advertising spend. Although publishers are seeing increased traffic to their sites, many are also experiencing reduced advertising spend. They should think creatively about ways to attract new advertisers by designing content on topics that will appeal to advertisers. They can also use the increase in traffic to collect more first-party data, potentially adding competitions, surveys and registrations for premium content.

    Although the ad industry is currently facing challenges, publishers and agencies should use this opportunity to work together and prepare for a privacy driven future. Publishers should continue to build scalable first-party audiences, design creative content and share their data readily with trusted agencies and advertisers. Agencies should consider the risks surrounding third-party cookies and prepare by partnering with publishers to build successful campaigns.